Liam Plunkett is in fast lane for Test recall
The 31-year-old is bowling as fast as ever, according to the speed gun at Bristol which clocked him at 93mph before rain intervened for a no-result in the third Royal London Series match against Sri Lanka.
He is doing so effectively too, the first of his three wickets taking him to 50 in one-day internationals – albeit making him the slowest Englishman to achieve the milestone, after a fallow mid-career which included just two caps between 2007 and last summer.
Speaking about his half-century of wickets, which came in 37 ODIs stretching back to December 2005, he said he is not about to shout the news from the rooftops – but is pleased nonetheless.
“It’s only taken 11 years,” Plunkett said, with a shrug and a smile. “Obviously, it’s an achievement – and I’m happy with it ... I’ll take it.”
He is content to still be in with a chance of taking more, or even adding to his Test tally of 41 in 13 matches.
Plunkett voiced his confusion last winter after discovering at the end of the tour of United Arab Emirates against Pakistan that he was to be left out of the Test trip to South Africa. But he has restated his case again, including in England’s run to the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in India.
“It was frustrating in the winter, involved in the Tests and not playing, and then in the one-day set-up,” he said. “But the guys are winning, they’re playing good cricket.
“I’ve played long enough now to realise you just keep grafting, and then when you get your chance you’ve got to take it. I enjoy being around the squad, even though I want to play. It’s not the worst place to be, even if you’re 12th or 13th man.”
He has featured in all three games so far of an ODI series England lead 1-0 with two to play, after they were stopped in their tracks on 16 for one in reply to 248 for nine.
He and Chris Woakes shared six Sri Lanka wickets yesterday, Plunkett’s three for 46 taking his series aggregate to seven. Pace is his biggest asset, but England’s selectors and coaches want to see some variations too. “They obviously liked what they saw [from me] in the Twenty20 World Cup, and they’ve backed me in this format,” Plunkett said. “You get clarity to run up and hit the pitch, and that’s what I do.
“I also got told in the winter ‘you’ve got to work on your slower balls and other stuff’. But for me, I think I am best when I’m smashing the pitch.”
There may be a path back into Test cricket with those methods, depending on how quickly James Anderson recovers from his shoulder injury before England face Pakistan next month.
Plunkett still harbours hopes of returning, for the first time in almost two years, but will not be sidetracked from present requirements.
“You still want to play Test cricket,” he said. “I’ll probably still want to play Test cricket when I’m 38. [But] I’m not really thinking about it. After this series, I’ll go back and try to perform for Yorkshire with the red ball. If you get the nod [for the Tests], perfect; if not, you just keep cracking away. But I’ve been around for a while now, and I don’t really think too much about the future. I just think ‘I want to play the next game and do well.’”
He and Woakes did enough to raise England’s hopes before bad weather interrupted and left them still needing another win from two remaining matches to clinch the series.
Sri Lanka vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal, one of three to pass 50 but get little further for the tourists, admitted his team were slightly short of par. “It was a tough wicket to bat on, a little bit up and down – a bit slow,” he said.
“In the end, we were short by 20 to 30 runs.”