Liam Plunkett happy to fight for World Cup spot as Jofra Archer strengthens claim
Liam Plunkett admits England will be a better side at the World Cup with Jofra Archer on board but hopes his own performances are enough to prevent him being shunted aside.
Decision day is looming as selectors ponder their final 15 for the tournament and although a 19-over washout in the first one-day international against Pakistan barely moved the debate along, four overs of Archer was more than enough to strengthen his hand.
In a wonderful new-ball stint, the Barbados-born paceman doubled down on the positive first impressions he made in Malahide and Cardiff, moving the ball elaborately off the pitch, showcasing an impressive bouncer and bagging a thick edge to make Fakhar Zaman his first wicket on English soil.
The spell came at a grand cost of just six runs and with an average speed in excess of 90mph. Increasingly, it seems unthinkable that he will not leapfrog one of the preliminary 15 before the May 23 deadline.
“With him in your squad, you’re going to be a better team,” said Plunkett, who took England’s other wicket before rain and hail forced an abandonment with the tourists 80-2 at the Kia Oval.
“He’s obviously a class act, he showed that today. He’s rocked up and bowled really nicely with pace, smashed the right areas, picked up a wicket in the first few overs and beat the left-hander on the outside edge.
“It’s always good to watch. It looks easy for him, he ambles in and bowls 93mph. It looks effortless.”
The idea that Archer will make the cut is fast becoming unanimous, even after just 16 overs in an England shirt, but the thornier issue is who he might replace.
Former Yorkshire pace bowler Plunkett has been mooted as one of those who might be vulnerable, despite his consistency and importance to the England blueprint over the past four years, while the likes of David Willey and Tom Curran are also sweating over their places.
The 34-year-old does not shy away from the dilemma and is content that selection remains primarily in his own hands. With five wickets in his first two outings of the summer, including 4-35 in Ireland, the early indications are in his favour.
“It’s going to be frustrating for someone, disappointing. But it’s elite sport. We are playing cricket for England, not playing park cricket,” he said.
“If it wasn’t Jofra, someone else would be knocking on the door, whether it be Jake Ball or someone different, there will always be someone there.
“We are here to do a job, we all want to win and the best squad will get picked.
“When you get a chance, be your own selector and perform. If you’re picking up wickets, that’s what you’ll do.
“I still don’t feel at my best. I feel I can play better but if I’m still picking wickets up I’m happy with that.”
The series continues at the Ageas Bowl on Saturday, when England expect to have Jason Roy and Moeen Ali fit again.
England, meanwhile, have paved the way for a bowler-friendly Ashes series by requesting prominent seams on their next batch of Test balls, but Ashley Giles insists there is no stitch up in the new stitching.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has instructed manufacturer Dukes to produce 500-600 balls to the same specification used in the past two summers after deciding the 2019 design did not offer enough to pacemen.
The governing body had requested tighter wound seams for this year’s Specsavers County Championship after batsmen endured a torrid time last season.
But after assessing the opening rounds, Giles, the managing director of men’s cricket, became concerned the balance had shifted too far the other way.
The news is likely to be music to the ears of England’s leading seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who were among a group of senior players consulted.
Giles has made it clear, however, his motivation was to produce good cricket, not maximising home advantage.
“People will say that, but that’s why we want to be on the front foot. We didn’t want to appear as though we were doing this underhandedly,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to Cricket Australia, they were fine, and I’ve spoken to Cricket Ireland (who play at Lord’s in July). It’s our decision but it’s important we made contact with them.
“It’s not as though we’re talking about playing against a bowling attack that isn’t very good. The Aussies are quite handy themselves.”