YORKSHIRE’s Liam Plunkett feels at the top of his game as England begin final preparations to bid for only the second global trophy in their history.
At almost 32, the evergreen seamer still has raw pace to trouble the best batsmen – but he has learned plenty of new tricks too to keep himself highly relevant to England’s white-ball team.
His 10 wickets for 99 runs in the 3-0 one-day international series victory over West Indies, England’s first whitewash success in the Caribbean, provides the statistical evidence that Plunkett will take some shifting from their first-choice XI for this summer’s Champions Trophy.
He is well aware others continue to provide stiff competition for places, and that Mark Wood and David Willey should be on their way back from injury soon too.
Plunkett was therefore not about to succumb to illness, despite spending a day confined to his bedroom with a stomach upset two days before taking 3-27 in England’s 186-run trouncing of the hosts in the third ODI at the Kensington Oval.
“I’ve found that in my career, when I’ve slipped a little bit, people come in and take over,” he said. “I was a bit rough those last two days ... (but) I didn’t want to give it up.
I’ve found that in my career, when I’ve slipped a little bit, people come in and take over. If someone comes in and does well, that’s my place gone.Yorkshire and England’s Liam Plunkett
“If someone comes in and does well, that’s my place gone.”
Plunkett took unwell on Monday evening, but was back bowling in rude health by Thursday.
“I came home with a growling stomach ... and shot off pretty sharpish,” he added.
“I had a day in bed – it was the only day off we had in Barbados, so it didn’t work out great for me.
“But I wanted to play. When the adrenaline got going with a couple of wickets, it wasn’t bad.”
Anticipating his 50th ODI cap against Ireland at Bristol in May – approaching 12 years after his first – Plunkett welcomes the pressure from those who will soon be pushing for his place.
“That’s good – you want that,” he said.
“Woody’s awesome ... he can change the game with his express pace.
“Dave as well - they’re a big miss. But people have come in and done well.”
England have just five more ODIs before they take on the world again, on home soil, in June - and Plunkett is hoping to be ever-present.
“I want to play every single game,” he said.
“It’s a trophy that we think we can win ... it is a carrot, but you’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing.”
Only Plunkett and captain Eoin Morgan are over 30 in the squad which won in the Windies.
The Yorkshire seamer admits he perhaps does not always act his age, but is delighted when his team-mates seek his wisdom.
“I sometimes forget that - act like I’m not in front of some of the younger guys,” he added.
“That’s my character - I try to create some energy.
“It’s nice when people come to speak to you about cricket and stuff. You’re like, ‘why are you asking me?’.
“(But) I like that responsibility. I used to thrive when I played for the Lions when I was one of the oldest ones there - I do enjoy that.”
There is plenty more cricketing wisdom in the line-up, of course, thanks not least to Plunkett’s club-and-country team-mate Joe Root.
England’s new Test captain helped ease Morgan’s tourists to victory in Bridgetown, with his first ODI century in a year, and he has earned rave reviews from the loftiest source of all in the West Indies.
Garry Sobers, widely regarded as the sport’s greatest all-rounder, has been struck by Root’s batsmanship - and speaking at the draft for this year’s Caribbean Premier League, he made his admiration clear.
“Joe Root, I love him,” he said.
“I think he’s a wonderful player. He works it out - you can see he tries to get himself in.
“He’s got all the shots, and when he gets on top that’s it. That’s what we want to see in the West Indies team, understanding the situation, not taking too many risks ... that’s Joe Root.”