Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett adapting to new challenges with England

England's Liam Plunkett.
England's Liam Plunkett.
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Liam Plunkett admits he is a much-changed and more skilful bowler as he tries to extend his career at the highest level.

Plunkett will be 32 by the start of England’s Champions Trophy summer - and to ensure he remains a test for the world’s best batsmen, he has added many more variations to his natural pace over the past two years.

It was that pace, height and bounce which earned him an England recall three years ago - after a mid-career hiatus - first of all in Test cricket and then a more protracted opportunity with the white ball too.

The Yorkshire seamer treasures every one of his 70 caps across the formats.

As he eyes a future in which the Champions Trophy looms large initially, he retains ambitions elsewhere - for his county, in franchise cricket around the world and even possibly a belated Ashes debut.

Plunkett still dares to dream, and believes he has the skills at his disposal to keep himself relevant in all conditions.

“When I started to come back and do well again, it was smashing the pitch - bowling quick,” he said.

“But people catch on - they’re going to wait for the short ball, so I need to keep adapting.”

He had to ask himself some searching specific questions therefore, about whether he could keep top batsmen guessing.

“’Do I bowl wobble-seam? Can I get the ball to come in?’ Otherwise people read you and know exactly what you’re going to do - especially good players,” he said.

“I don’t just want to be running in and trying to bowl quick - I want to be skilful with it.”

That is increasingly true, of course, with advancing years - although there is little reason yet to suggest Plunkett has lost a yard along the way.

“Especially if my pace does go down in the next few years and I’m still playing county cricket at 35, I’ve got the skills to bowl yorkers and cutters and keep adapting,” he added.

“Obviously I want to play for England for as long as I can.”

Plunkett proved the point in England’s warm-up win over the WICB President’s XI in St Kitts on Monday.

He finished with three wickets, two caught at leg-gully - a fielding position he had suggested to captain Eoin Morgan.

“In my first over, one ball hit his glove and went over the wicketkeeper’s head - and that was off length,” he said.

“When I did go seam-up it was popping, and I thought there might be a chance.”

He benefited too from Morgan’s readiness to go with his idea - a symptom, according to Plunkett, of the easy atmosphere in the England one-day international team about to test its Champions Trophy credentials in three matches against West Indies.

“Everyone gets on, so it’s free - you can speak to anyone,” he said.

“It’s one of the first times when I’ve played that the team has done that. It’s a good place to be.”

As for those longer-term ambitions, Plunkett added: “I’d love to play if something like the Big Bash came around - especially now, because I don’t know how long my career is going to last.

“I’m 31. You want to earn money and have something in the bank.”

White-ball cricket has often dominated his schedule of late, with no Test cricket since those four matches in summer 2014, but the outside chance of a trip Down Under next year is still ‘on his radar’.

“I’d love to play in the Ashes,” he said. “I’ve been 12th man there.

“At the start of the summer I’m playing in the MCC game, which I’m looking forward to.

“(You could) get a flier there ... pick up a five-fer and you go back home feeling great about yourself.

“So I jumped at the chance to do that.”