Liam Plunkett ready for his second coming after wilderness years
Bowler back in England Test side after a seven-year sabbatical
Thursday 05 June 2014
For years the England team has been viewed as a closed shop, but Liam Plunkett will provide the most compelling evidence yet that this is no longer the case if he resumes his Test career next week after a seven-year sabbatical.
The Yorkshire quick was the left-field pick in Peter Moores' first Test squad in his second coming as coach. Anyone who has witnessed Plunkett's displays for Yorkshire this season will, however, argue that his case for selection was every bit as deserved as those of Chris Jordan, Moeen Ali and Sam Robson – the three uncapped players called up for the Lord's Test against Sri Lanka.
The 29-year-old has taken 24 wickets at a cost of 24 for Yorkshire this summer, as well as scoring 209 runs at an average of 34. While these figures are impressive, it's actually the consistent pace that Plunkett has been bowling at, as much as the wickets he has taken, that has caught the selectors' attention.
And as England continue their search for a bowler capable of blowing away the tail as well as roughing up the top order, Plunkett might have timed his form just right.
"I'm not sure I'm bowling any quicker now than I have done before, I'm just doing it more consistently," he says. "I've bowled quick in the past but I did it in short spells, now I'm doing it more and more regularly."
If he does get the nod at Lord's next Thursday, it will represent a remarkable transformation in fortunes for a player who made his Test debut against Pakistan in Lahore at the age of just 20. England lost that match by an innings and 100 runs with Plunkett taking two wickets in his first 28 overs in international cricket, but at the cost of an eye-watering 125 runs.
Further runs in the side, against Sri Lanka and West Indies on home soil in 2006 and 2007, followed but while he was always capable of bowling the unplayable ball, he never threatened to nail down a spot in an already hotly contested pace attack, coming up against the likes of Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff.
Now, though, two years after leaving Durham, the Middlesbrough-born Plunkett is ready to go again. "I'm not sure if everything happened too early. Sometimes young cricketers get in and perhaps take their foot off the gas and think that they've made it," he said.
"But you don't know your game at that age, especially in international cricket because if things go wrong, then everyone sees it happening. You can get shot down quickly and it can affect people when they're younger. Since the move to Yorkshire, I've got some real clarity in my role and everything has fallen into place.
"Things went really well with the Lions [England's reserves] in the winter and I was just looking to get back into the county grind, do as well as I could and just bowl quick and be aggressive. People start talking and you read things on Twitter [that the selectors are watching you] but I've just kept my focus."
It hasn't been a lightning fast return but you sense that Plunkett is more than ready to make up for lost time.
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