Liam Plunkett didn’t gain too many headlines after England’s World Cup victory – Ben Stokes made sure of that – but, by the time the tournament ended, he could rest assured he had played a full part in the triumph.
By claiming three wickets in the final – including the key one of Kane Willamson – Plunkett had replicated the role he had fulfilled all tournament: offering his captain control and the promise of wickets in the middle-overs.
It had felt, in the months ahead of the announcement of the final squad for the World Cup, that 34-year-old Plunkett was clinging on to his place. His pace, once as sharp as anyone in the land, had dropped and his spot in the side was under threat from the likes of David Willey, Chris Jordan and the Curran brothers.
Ultimately, however, his increasing skill – his cutters, delivered from height, proved desperately hard for batsmen to negotiate on surfaces that proved surprisingly receptive for him – won him a place in the squad and it was no coincidence that England won all seven of the World Cup matches he played. Both his economy-rate – he conceded 4.85 runs per over – and average – his 11 wickets came at a cost of 24.11 apiece – were among the best in the competition. Still, it was not a complete surprise when, just a couple of months later, his name was omitted from the list of central contracts for the following year. “Disappointment is an understatement,” he tweeted in response.
Plunkett had feared his career was over long before all that. A move south, from Durham to Yorkshire, after the 2012 season, revived him. Rather than slipping out of the game, he rediscovered his pace and ambition in one of English cricket’s story-book recoveries. England, pummelled by the Australian Mitchell Johnson, and eager to find an out-and-out quick bowler of their own, liked what they saw during a Lions recall, and he played the four Tests of the 2014 summer as a shock trooper – two each against Sri Lanka and India – before succumbing to injury.
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