Jonathan Agnew: Jos Buttler's maiden Test century set an example to England

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England v India: Jos Buttler scores a maiden century but home side still face heavy loss

We wanted England to show some fight in their bid to save the third Test against India and we got it in the shape of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.

Ironically, it came from the two most aggressive batsmen in the team, as Buttler registered his maiden Test century and Stokes inched to his slowest half-century.

England will lose this match on Wednesday - India only need one wicket to drag the series back to 2-1 - but a positive from this fourth day is the way Buttler and Stokes showed the rest of the team how to play.

Remember, England lost all 10 wickets in the session between lunch and tea on Sunday to be bowled out for 161, the latest in a catalogue of collapses that have blighted their Test cricket in recent years.

We've said it over and over again - you have to be able to adapt the way you play to the circumstances of the game if you want to be successful in Test cricket.

That is exactly what Buttler and Stokes did. They deserve great credit for it.

We knew that Stokes was capable of playing such an innings. His first Test hundred against an Australia side including the rampaging Mitchell Johnson was a back-to-the-wall fight on an unpredictable pitch in Perth.

Buttler was the big question. Could the white-ball specialist, the man who hits the ball miles, tailor the way he plays to the longest form of the game?

That Buttler was even recalled to the Test side was a brave decision by Ed Smith, made for his first match as national selector.

The Lancashire man has totally repaid the punt that Smith and the rest of the England management took on him, not only with the recall but also by handing him the vice-captaincy.

His two half-centuries in the series against Pakistan and now his first Test ton are a big pat on the back for Buttler and those who believed in him.

He is a massively talented cricketer and there is no reason why a player with his ability shouldn't succeed in red-ball cricket, even if the majority of his time in the past few years has been spent playing limited-overs matches.

Buttler & Stokes show the way - England's longest innings in this series*
RunsBallsStrike-rate (runs per 100 balls faced)
* In terms of balls faced (Source: Cricinfo)
Ben Stokes, Trent Bridge6218733.15
Chris Woakes, Lord's13717777.40
Jos Buttler, Trent Bridge10617660.22
Joe Root, Edgbaston8015651.28
Jonny Bairstow, Lord's9314464.58

On Tuesday, with England 62-4 and in danger of falling in a heap for the second time in the match, Buttler knuckled down and played the perfect Test innings.

Yes, we know that he is the sort of player who instinctively will play shots - he still hit 21 fours in his 176-ball stay - but there was not a hint of white-ball slogging in there. There were beautiful cricket strokes played by an immaculate timer of the ball.

It was a controlled, sensible innings that could be a real springboard for Buttler. What makes it all the more exciting from an England point of view is that we know he also has the destructive hitting up his sleeve.

In the circumstances, we could not have asked for much more from Buttler or Stokes, especially when you consider the questions over the latter's frame of mind for this match after he was acquitted of affray.

For all of the good they did, though, there remains that sense of infuriation that it came too late for England to get anything out of the Test.

If players like Buttler and Stokes can do what they did on Tuesday, why can't those regular collapses be prevented?

We keep saying the same things about England's batting fragility, that collectively they must recognise the need for a solid defensive game and not simply say that aggression is "the way I play".

Now, when we see Buttler and Stokes playing these ideal innings, you want them to keep doing it and drag a few more along with them.

More than anything, it debunks the idea that England's players only know one way to play. They can find that adaptability we've been crying out for.

They might call it old-fashioned, but even attacking batsmanship is built on a solid defensive technique.

Will the others follow the example set by Buttler and Stokes?

We will have to wait for the fourth Test to find out.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Stephan Shemilt