Plunkett delight at call-up for Pakistan Tests
Wednesday 12 October 2005
Plunkett may not be the only replacement England have to call on prior to their departure. Chris Tremlett has yet to convince the selectors that he has recovered from the knee injury that affected his bowling during the closing weeks of the season. England will make a final decision on Tremlett's fitness at the end of the week, after the Hampshire fast bowler has undergone further tests. But the omens do not look good. If there were no doubts, Tremlett would have been declared fit by now.
"I'm over the moon," said Plunkett on hearing of his selection. "I've tried to bowl well this year and to now be in the England Test squad is fantastic. Just to be part of the Test squad is a massive thing for me. Even if I don't get to play in a Test match while I am in Pakistan, I'll learn so much from being around such a quality group of players."
David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, cited Plunkett's form for Durham as the reason why he was picked ahead of more experienced performers like James Kirtley and Kabir Ali. "Liam is a young player [who] has done very well for Durham this year both in the longer and shorter form of the game. This is an excellent opportunity and, along with his selection in the one-day squad, underlines his ongoing potential."
Plunkett had an excellent season for Durham, where he took more than 70 wickets in all forms of cricket. He also scored useful lower-order runs and played a major role in helping the club gain promotion from the Second Division in both the County Championship and the National League.
The gangly 20-year-old's aggressive bowling has inevitably been likened to that of his county colleague and England star, Stephen Harmison. Such comparisons are a touch premature. They are also slightly inaccurate. Plunkett bowls at a lively pace - 85mph - but he is not a Harmison-style of bowler.
His method brings back memories of Neil Foster, the former Essex and England fast bowler, while Glenn McGrath is the type of bowler he should attempt to model himself on. Plunkett has a nice high action but he hits a fuller length than Harmison and, when he is at his best, he shapes the ball away from right-handed batsmen.
Plunkett may not get many opportunities once Andrew Flintoff and Harmison join up with the England Test squad, but the selectors will not have to worry about his attitude. He never stops training or working at his game.
Flintoff and Harmison are due to play for the Rest of the World against Australia in a six-day Test which starts on Friday, so the selectors have allowed the pair to stay in England until 4 November. They will miss England's initial warm-up game but will be available for the final match before the first Test in Multan.
This may be Plunkett's first outing with the full England side but he is no stranger to the set-up. He spent two years playing for England Under-19s and, as an 18-year-old, claimed 5 for 53 against Yorkshire on his first-class debut. He also gained a part-time place at the National Academy during the winter of 2004-05.
The only concern about Plunkett is his temperament. It is rumoured that he became nervous and bowled poorly when Graveney came to watch him during the summer, and describes his worst moment in cricket as bowling too many wides in the first televised game in which he played.
Fast learner: Guide to Liam Plunkett
Name: Liam Edward Plunkett
Born: 6 April 1985, Middlesbrough
Height: 6ft 3in
County debut: 2003
Cricketers admired: Glenn McGrath, Steve Harmison, Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis
Bowling 101 wickets @ 31.77
Best bowling 6-74
Five-wicket hauls: Four
Batting 722 runs @ 21.23
Highest score 74 not out
Bowling 33 wickets @ 29.54
Economy rate 4.75 per over
Batting 154 runs @ 17.11.
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