Sad Jos Buttler, Sad England

Jos Buttler's bowlers were put under pressure Associated Press

'A win's a win', should have been the narrative. A mucky, dirty display that for an England team reeling with various different diagnoses of #disarray could hold on to as a step in the right direction, even if it wasn't the confidence boost they hoped it would be.

Instead, rather than Jos Buttler's soundbite at the end of the day being 'good teams win when they play badly', it was 'good teams lose when they play well.'

"I thought we played really well," Buttler said in the moments after England had fallen to a four-wicket defeat that had seen the West Indies score 113 runs off the final 61 balls of their innings. "We were positive and aggressive and put the pressure on the West Indies at the start. Even when we got pushed back the guys were positive enough to keep throwing punches. It took a fantastic partnership between Hope and Shepherd in the last 10 or 12 overs for them to win the game."

Two days ago, Buttler stood in front of the media and listed one of his main learnings from the World Cup was the importance of looking after his own game. Not for his own sake but because of the correlation between a happy Buttler and a happy England.

This is a man out of form and a team that has lost its knack of winning. Buttler contributed 3 runs off 13 balls and England threw away a win that, with West Indies five down and with just two ODI half-centuries left in their batting line up, seemed an impossibility. Happy Buttler, happy England. Sad Buttler, sad England.

Since September, Buttler has batted 13 times in ODI cricket, averaging 18.84 and failing to reach 50 even once. In his last eight innings, he averages 9.75. These are not selectively cut sample sizes, featuring three ODIs from March, three from 2022 and three from the Kerry Packer series. This is the current form of England's captain and greatest-ever white-ball batter from his last block of cricket.

"I feel good, I just keep managing to get out," Buttler said. "It's disappointing, frustrating and gone on for a lot longer than I'd have liked but there's only myself who can score my own runs, I'm not going to score any if I hide away and don't get out there.

"You keep working hard, the only thing you can do is keep working hard, keep putting yourself out there, trusting in the stuff that's served you well over a long period of time and hope it turns around."

Despite Buttler's comments, England produced a performance that was less than the sum of its parts, but for so long it looked like that would be enough. Everyone showed glimpses of why they've been picked, but no one had the game that would settle the nerves for this nascent white-ball side.

Phil Salt got off to a flyer then got out, Will Jacks played with run-a-ball caution and then got out, Zak Crawley got himself in, then ran himself out. And so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, it was not the batting that was the problem. Heading into the series, England were expecting 250-300 shootouts on wickets that spun heavily and had variable bounce. And on a wicket that spun heavily and had variable bounce, they got 325, thanks largely to a fine innings of 71 by Harry Brook. It looked well over par.

Of course, failure to defend 325 cannot solely be laid at the personal form of a struggling captain. But the struggles of a leader are often taken on by their followers.

England's new-look seam trio failed to perform, with only Gus Atkinson, who took 2 for 62, returning figures he won't wince at tomorrow morning. Brydon Carse went at over eight-an-over and claimed just one wicket, while Sam Curran's 0 for 98 are the worst ODI figures for an England bowler in history. Bowling the penultimate over, Curran was smashed for three sixes over deep-midwicket by Shai Hope, in a triple blow that gave him the record, Hope a century and West Indies the win.

It was a painful evening for Curran, who has been anointed as England's new-ball bowler in the post-World Cup era. But since the start of the New Zealand series in September, he has played seven ODIs and taken four wickets at an average of 80.5 and conceded his runs at as bad as eight-an-over.

"For 40 overs of it we did brilliantly well," Buttler said, defending his bowling group. "It is always a hallmark of West Indian cricket that they are excellent six hitters and they managed to find the rope when they needed to. We did a lot of things well with the bat and ball, we just didn't close it out. A little bit of execution here and there or whether we need to change our plans a little bit."

Overall, Buttler's comments this evening are the best indication that this really is a new era. The team is new to the format, new as a group and not in need of a public bollocking from their skipper, even if they let slip a victory that, for all intents and purposes, should have been routine.

But this isn't Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United anymore. Buttler may sound odd to the public praising a team that has lost in such a manner, but he'd have sounded even crueler in private had he walked back into his dressing room of 20-somethings on their first trip together having said they were all crap.

That is fine. And arguably good leadership. It's just that when you lose that aura and start to rebuild, there is no guarantee it will return. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Erik ten Hag can testify to that.