England batsman Luke Wright vows not to be written off as second-best No 3
The man charged with taking over from Kevin Pietersen in defence of England's world title outlined his vision yesterday. Luke Wright, who seems certain to be entrusted with the No 3 batting spot from which Pietersen launched his campaign for Twenty20 glory two years ago, was as sanguine as could be about the prospect.
"I'd quite like to replicate that, that'd be quite nice," he said of Pietersen's performance in the 2010 World Twenty20, when he scored 248 runs in six innings at a rate above eight an over as England won their first major limited-overs competition.
"I don't think it's fair to put myself up against KP, especially in this tournament. We're just planning purely on what we're doing and what my role is. If I start thinking things like that it would make the role a lot harder."
England play their final warm-up match today at the Tamil Union ground against Pakistan, who have suddenly become much fancied after their own warm-up win against India by five wickets. The holders are in sunny humour, a mood no doubt enhanced by their nine-run warm-up win against Australia on Monday, rather than Pietersen's absence.
Today's match will be a more realistic examination for countering subcontinental pitches. England can expect half the overs they face to be bowled by spinners, four by their old nemesis, Saeed Ajmal.
Wright played in all seven of England's matches on their triumphant 2010 mission in the Caribbean, batting in the late middle order, occasionally bowling his extremely brisk, if rudimentary, seam, and tearing round the boundary like a demon. Although his elevation to No 3 has come about because of Pietersen's absence and Ravi Bopara's loss of form, he is a much better player now.
"This winter I have sometimes thought, 'I wish I could play the amount of cricket I have for England but start again now,'" he said. "Looking back, I see enough times on these cricket highlights over here on Indian TV some absolutely horrendous shots and I want to give myself a little talking to. Hopefully, I can get a run of games now, but it's up to me."
Wright may not be Pietersen – who is? – but nor should he be written off. He has recovered from a severe knee injury which required high-grade surgery a year ago and a key innings he played for Melbourne Stars in the Aussie Big Bash last January made the world, not to mention the IPL, sit up. He made 117 off 60 balls for Melbourne Stars in Hobart.
Doubtless it fuelled his self-belief, but it may also have convinced him his cricketing fortunes now lie in one area. Wright came as close as can be to being picked for a Test match in South Africa two years ago but recognises that he may never play in one now.
"I wouldn't say I've completely given up on it," he said. "I'd say I'm a long way off playing Test cricket. I've got to be honest, I don't think I'm a Test cricketer, as much as I'd love to be. I wouldn't turn to a young lad and say, 'Just go Twenty20', I'd still hope he'd want Test cricket first but for me I'm lucky enough that in this era my game has been given these opportunities."
The likelihood is that youngsters who see Wright prosper will see that way ahead themselves. And if he were to take this tournament by storm, Test cricket would not matter a jot.
Results and fixtures
Group C (Hambantota): Sri Lanka 182-4 [Sangakkara 44] bt Zimbabwe 100 [B A W Mendis 6-8] by 82 runs
Group A (Colombo, 3pm BST): India v Afghanistan
Group B (Colombo, 11am): Australia v Ireland
TV Both games live on Sky Sports 1
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