England v Sri Lanka: Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett ready to answer Test call

IN FORM: England and Yorkshires Liam Plunkett (centre) celebrates with Eoin Morgan after bowling Sri Lankas Kusal Mendis at Bristol on Sunday. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.
IN FORM: England and Yorkshires Liam Plunkett (centre) celebrates with Eoin Morgan after bowling Sri Lankas Kusal Mendis at Bristol on Sunday. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.
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YORKSHIRE’S Liam Plunkett is determined to live in the moment as he tries to make the most of his England opportunities.

The 31-year-old is bowling as fast as ever, according to the speed gun at Bristol which clocked him at 93mph before rain intervened for a no-result in the third Royal London Series match against Sri Lanka.

Rain stops play at Bristol. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.

Rain stops play at Bristol. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.

He is doing so effectively too, the first of his three wickets taking him to 50 in one-day internationals – albeit making him the slowest Englishman to achieve the milestone, after a fallow mid-career which included just two caps between 2007 and last summer.

Speaking about his half-century of wickets, which came in 37 ODIs stretching back to December 2005, he said he is not about to shout the news from the rooftops – but is pleased nonetheless.

“It’s only taken 11 years,” Plunkett said, with a shrug and a smile.

“Obviously, it’s an achievement – and I’m happy with it ... I’ll take it.”

He is content to still be in with a chance of taking more, or even adding to his Test tally of 41 in 13 matches.

Plunkett voiced his confusion last winter after discovering at the end of the tour of United Arab Emirates against Pakistan that he was to be left out of the Test trip to South Africa.

But he has restated his case again, including in England’s run to the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in India.

“It was frustrating in the winter, involved in the Tests and not playing, and then in the one-day set-up,” he said.

“But the guys are winning, they’re playing good cricket.

“I’ve played long enough now to realise you just keep grafting, and then when you get your chance you’ve got to take it.

“I enjoy being around the squad, even though I want to play. It’s not the worst place to be, even if you’re 12th or 13th man.”

He has featured in all three games so far of an ODI series England lead 1-0 with two to play, after they were stopped in their tracks on 16-1 in reply to 248-9.

He and Chris Woakes shared six Sri Lanka wickets yesterday, Plunkett’s 3-46 taking his series aggregate to seven.

And while pace is his biggest asset, England’s selectors and coaches want to see some variations too.

“They obviously liked what they saw (from me) in the Twenty20 World Cup, and they’ve backed me in this format,” added Plunkett.

“You get clarity to run up and hit the pitch, and that’s what I do.

“I also got told in the winter ‘you’ve got to work on your slower balls and other stuff’. But for me, I think I am best when I’m smashing the pitch.”

There may be a path back into Test cricket with those methods, depending on how quickly James Anderson recovers from his shoulder injury before England face Pakistan next month.

Plunkett still harbours hopes of returning, for the first time in almost two years, but will not be sidetracked from present requirements.

“You still want to play Test cricket,” he said.

“I’ll probably still want to play Test cricket when I’m 38.

“(But) I’m not really thinking about it. After this series, I’ll go back and try to perform for Yorkshire with the red ball.

“If you get the nod (for the Tests), perfect; if not, you just keep cracking away.

“But I’ve been around for a while now, and I don’t really think too much about the future. I just think ‘I want to play the next game and do well’.

“I feel like, if I started drifting off and thinking about ‘I should be in this team, and that team’ then it goes against me.”

He and Woakes did enough to raise England’s hopes, before forecast bad weather interrupted and left them still needing another win from two remaining matches to clinch the series.

“We backed ourselves to chase (that total),” said Plunkett.

“We wanted to go 2-0 up there ... but you’ve just got to crack on to the next one.”

Sri Lanka vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal, one of three to pass 50 but get little further for the tourists, admitted his team were slightly short of par.

“It was a tough wicket to bat on, a little bit up and down – a bit slow,” he said.

“In the end, we were short by 20 to 30 runs.”

On Anderson, the ECB issued a statement over the weekend regarding the latest situation on his fitness as he strives to recover from a stress fracture of his right shoulder blade.

The 33-year-old’s fitness will continue to be monitored by club and country in the run-up to the four-Test series against Pakistan, which gets under way at Lord’s only 11 days later.

“Lancashire and England bowler Jimmy Anderson has sustained a stress fracture in the right shoulder blade, which he sustained in the third Investec Test match against Sri Lanka at Lord’s earlier this month,” read the ECB statement.

“Due to the nature of the injury, Jimmy’s availability for the Pakistan Test series, commencing on July 14, will be determined following ongoing management and review by both the ECB and Lancashire’s medical teams.

“He will miss Lancashire’s Specsavers County Championship matches against Middlesex commencing on Sunday at Lord’s and against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge starting on July 3.”

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