Friday, February 02, 2007

One to watch

Liam Plunkett

After England managed to polish off Australia for the first time in a good few months this morning, I thought it was time to reflect on the fortunes of the England bowler most marginalised over this Ashes tour.

Plunkett, the Durham quick, who hit the scene around the same time as Saj Mahmood, had fallen back behind Jimmy Anderson and Mahmood to the point where after getting clubbed for 39 from five painful overs in his first competitive outing since the English summer, it looked as though serious doubts where beginning to form over his ability.

However, that one loosener aside (yes, five overs is generous for a loosener, but wait...), Plunkett has taken 6 wickets at around 15 in the subsequent two ODIs, topping that by producing figures of 9.5-1-24-3 in the immensely satisfying tonking meted out to the Aussies. The crucial aspect here is control - something which both Plunkett and Mahmood have lacked in their short ODI careers; Mahmood's economy is up over 6, while Plunkett's is only just below.

While Plunkett's promise has only reared its head sporadically, I think his style is more suited to forging a successful international career. Mahmood's shotgun pace is undermined by his habit of spraying the ball all over the place - something that definitely isn't out of the Glenn McGrath school of wicket-taking. Maybe he'll settle down, like Shoaib did, but until then, Plunkett's line and angle of attack, allied to a more smooth, economical action, would get my nod. He may not be as quick as Saj, and he may not be able to create the bounce and angles of Chris Tremlett, another rival from England's youthful pace stable, but he seems to have a certain amount of savvy about him that compensates for this.

Looking at the breakdown of his bowling figures may not be all that instructive - but, he takes wickets, and he gets runs, highlighted by the fifty he scored in only his second one day international. Coupled with the productive period he produced in the summer's Tests against Sri Lanka, before injury, I think he's got a decent case for being 'the new Simon Jones'; at least until Jones himself is back. Then he can battle it out with the Welshman and Stuart Broad for that number eight position...

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