Liam Plunkett was England’s leading wicket-taker in the Caribbean but the fast bowler has experienced such a stop-start career since his debut back in 2005 that he knows full well the battle for bowling spots in the Champions Trophy is not done. Plunkett claimed 10 victims at nine runs apiece during the 3-0 clean sweep over West Indies – including a career-best four for 40 in the opener in Antigua – and so should feel optimistic about making the starting XI for the run of five one-day internationals against Ireland and South Africa in May that precede the summer’s global tournament.
Having taken 11 years to chalk up 49 one-day caps, however, the Yorkshire right-armer is also well accustomed to the fickle nature of the pecking order. He is aware that the England management are hopeful that the left-arm option of David Willey and the extra pace of Mark Wood, missing because of injury, will be available come the summer.
This is why Plunkett was so determined to see out the series in Barbados, playing through the sickness bug that wiped out his training 24 hours earlier to pick up figures of three for 27 in the 186-run win and, with it, deny Jake Ball or the uncapped Tom Curran a possible in. “I was a bit rough but there was a chance to play and I didn’t want to give up my place. If someone comes in and does well, that’s my place gone,” said Plunkett. “I’ve found that in my career, when I’ve slipped a little bit, people come in and take over.
“It happened in Bangladesh [in October]. I had a toe injury and Jake Ball came in and did well. I’m not a guy to be spiteful, though. I want the guys to do well and that’s probably one of my downfalls in my time.”
Plunkett’s mild manner is also perhaps why his achievements, such as being England’s leading one-day wicket-taker last summer against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, do not always grab attention but the England limited-overs captain, Eoin Morgan, remains a huge supporter of his muscular back-of-a-length bowling in the middle overs.
His next outing will come in first‑class cricket as part of the MCC side that takes on Middlesex in the Champion County fixture in Abu Dhabi that starts in two weeks’ time, a trip he hopes can propel him towards a third crack at Test cricket. His second spell in the side back in 2014, when he returned from a seven-year absence and took 18 wickets in four matches against Sri Lanka and India, was ended by an ankle injury that similarly allowed others to capitalise.
“I still want to play Test cricket,” Plunkett said. “I’m 31 now. I feel I’m at my best, certainly in terms of consistency. If you start the season well with a few five-wicket hauls and put pressure on, you never know.”
The performances in the Caribbean by his Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root, meanwhile, have attracted high praise from Sir Garfield Sobers. Scores of 90 not out and 101 led to the great West Indies all-rounder call on the region’s batsmen to learn from his approach. “Joe Root is a wonderful player, because when he goes in he works it out. He plays himself in and then, because he has all the shots, he gets on top,” said Sobers at the Caribbean Premier League draft in Barbados on Friday.
“That is what we need to see from our West Indian players: an understanding of the situation. Don’t take risks, particularly if the bowlers are on top or the pitch is doing something. I haven’t seen that kind of application from them. Something is lacking.” (The Guardian)