ANDREW GALE has handed Yorkshire paceman Liam Plunkett a huge compliment – by suggesting he can become a Mitchell Johnson-type enforcer at Test level with England.
The Middlesbrough-born seamer is enjoying a renaissance at Headingley after leaving Durham and his hostile bowling has already yielded 19 first-class wickets this term, creating plenty of unease among opposing batsmen along the way.
England selector James Whittaker watched both Plunkett and Jack Brooks, who is second only to Steve Finn in the County Championship wicket-taking stakes in 2014, impress in the Roses clash against Lancashire at the start of this week.
Both did their England hopes no harm, with Brooks having so far taken 26 first-class wickets so far this season at an average of 26.19. While Brooks is yet to play Test cricket, you have to go back almost seven years to June 2004 for Plunkett’s last Test appearance.
But if Plunkett sustains his aggressive pace, allied to wicket-taking prowess, Gale feels he will have a real chance of ending his England exile. Gale said: “He can really make a push to play Test cricket this summer and can be a real enforcer for England just like Mitchell Johnson is for Australia.
“He is bowling at 90 miles an hour and I watched him go around the wicket recently and bowl at Ian Bell and he hit him on the gloves. When you are hitting good Test batsmen of that calibre, you know you are bowling quick.
“With his batting, fielding and aggression with the ball, England could do a lot worse than pick Liam Plunkett for Test cricket.”
Plunkett and Brooks are likely to spearhead the Tykes attack in tomorrow’s County Championship clash with Northants at Wantage Road (noon start) with Yorkshire having reaped the benefits of keeping things simple with the former, according to Gale.
The Yorkshire captain added: “I think the lack of work has actually helped him really.
“I think he was worried about his reaction and his confidence was scarred at Durham. We have just told him to come in and bowl as fast as he can and while he is doing that, it helps us and working alongside Jason Gillespie has also helped him a lot. Before, his head was clouded about technical things running up and worried about where his feet were positioned, his front arm and back leg.
“We just kept it simple and said: ‘Forget about all the technical stuff, you are a fast bowler, just run in and bowl as fast as you can.’ Now he has a clear mind and has become the enforcer of our attack.”