Liam Plunkett has finally found his niche with England as he looks to end the year as the leading wicket-taker in one-day internationals.
Yorkshire’s Plunkett has 28 scalps in 13 appearances in 2017, placing him third behind Pakistan’s Hasan Ali (31) and Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan (36) with a five-match series against the West Indies still to play.
He is already warmed up for the task having taken 3-27 in the one-off Twenty20 between the sides and is only a couple of strong displays away from claiming a rare individual accolade.
The 32-year-old made his England bow 12 years ago but was frequently on the periphery of Test and limited-overs squads and did not play a single international between February 2011 and June 2015.
“I’m quite comfortable in my own skin with England now,” he said.
“I feel in a good place and I feel like I deserve to be in the 11, which is always nice.
“I’ve felt in a good place these last 18 months. In the last few years even when it didn’t go well you’ve got the backing to play, which maybe I didn’t have previously.
“It’s good to have that feeling and it would be great to be the number one wicket-taker. I’ve never been in that situation before for England and it would be great to achieve that but also good to win the series.”
The Yorkshire seamer doubles down on the final point, stressing the importance of results over recognition.
“It would be nice to get the eight wickets and a milestone for sure but winning is more important than statistics,” he added.
It would be nice to get the eight wickets and a milestone for sure but winning is more important than statisticsYorkshire and England’s Liam Plunkett
“That’s why this team has been so good, people want to win games for England and it’s not so much stats driven.”
Plunkett does not lack the ability to take pace off the ball, but neither does he relish it.
“I’m trying to smash the pitch,” he explained.
“I’ve got the plan to hit the pitch hard, the odd bouncer, and if people are hitting me from there, fair enough. I don’t look to change too much early.
“If people start moving around I might throw in a few slower balls or whatever but I enjoy the role of getting my groupings together and whacking the pitch.”
The Windies lost a compelling Test series to England but, having completed wholesale personnel change for the limited-overs leg of the tour, drew first blood with a 21-run win at Chester-le-Street.
As he so often has done, big-hitting veteran Chris Gayle set the tone with a boundary-strewn 40, and the tourists’ prospects may rise and fall on his shoulders.
“I don’t think anyone knows (how to bowl at him) do they?” said Plunkett.
“He’s such a good player he just hits the ball out of the park wherever he wants.
“But it’s good they have their experienced players back, a lot of stars, and that’s what you want to play against.
“You want to beat the best they can bring over. In one-dayers we’re a good team, we haven’t won any silverware obviously but in terms of the last two years with the amount of games and series we are a confident team. We feel like we should beat them.”
England captain Eoin Morgan, meanwhile, admitted his side lost against West Indies because they failed to build on a good start.
Despite losing opener Jason Roy first ball England put on 63 runs for the second wicket before Alex Hales, who top-scored for the home side with 43, was bowled by West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite.
Chasing the visitors’ 176-9 England were all out for 155 with three balls remaining.
Morgan: “We didn’t bowl that well but we certainly didn’t lose the game (in the early overs of the West Indies innings) because we were certainly happy chasing what we did.
“The losing of the game was was probably when we lost three wickets (Hales, Joe Root, and Morgan) in that period.
“Jos (Buttler) rebuilt really well and potentially put us in a position where we could have kicked on but we continued to lose wickets.
“I think that’s the area of the game that we need to look at.”
Morgan was dismissed for two and admitted his poor batting form was something he was looking at.
He said: “I think my form’s always a concern.
“It is something that I am becoming more relaxed about as I get older.”