The whole point of our Whatever Happened To The Unlikely Lads? series (or WHTTUL, as the cool kids are calling it these days) was to take a look at those players that had been slightly forgotten over time, usually due to their distinct lack of impact at the highest level. To begin with, this was easy. Who wouldn’t want to talk about the disastrous international careers of the likes of Ian Salisbury, Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick? Then came the second tier of failure, the likes of Chris Schofield and Saj Mahmood, followed by branching out into the world of international Unlikely Lads.
And then the well began to run dry. Surprisingly, no-one was willing to commit to writing 800 words about Aftab Habib’s glorious Test career or that time Ronnie Irani’s warmup became the third most popular thing in the whole of Australia (after Home and Away and being racist). Brows became furrowed. Editor Steve began turning up for work with a baseball bat, loudly dragging it along the radiator on his way into the office, causing the work experience boy to clench in fear. Things couldn’t go on like this.
And then, thanks to the BBC Newcastle cricket guy desperately trying to fill time on the first day of the county season, we suddenly remembered a man so mind-numbingly average that we literally forget his existence every single time we’re not looking directly at a picture of him. He is, of course:
Seriously, try and describe what Liam Plunkett looks like. He definitely has a face and he might have had a beard once. Although possibly not. Beyond that, it’s all too difficult. The best we could come up with is that he definitely looks a bit like the Honey Monster, perhaps if he stopped eating quite so much sugary cereal and lost some weight.
In the grand scheme of things, we reckon we’re fairly clued up on the County Championship. We know our Graham Napiers from our Graham Onionses (the former is the one bowling above 90mph, for a start). But the rise of Liam Plunkett took us completely by surprise. One moment we’d never heard of him, the next he’d apparently taken bundles of wickets for Durham and was in the England Test squad. With the 2005 Ashes lineup crumbling – literally in the cases of Simon Jones and Ashley Giles – there was an opportunity for a new seamer to force their way into the side.
Plunkett’s chance came in Lahore and he performed reasonably well, taking 2/125 as England took a frightful beating at the hands of Mohammad Yousuf (who made 223) and, er, Kamran Akmal (154), before going on to lose by an innings. It wasn’t quite enough to keep Plunkett in the side for the follow-up tour of India – Ian Blackwell was preferred for the non-contributing all-rounder role for the first Test – but he did play in Mohali, doing the square root of fuck all as England were soundly beaten.
Common sense would dictate that Plunkett clearly wasn’t ready for Test cricket but a combination of injuries and Duncan Fletcher’s gin-addled descent into madness saw him (Plunkett that is, not Fletcher) back in the side to play Sri Lanka at Lord’s. Our hero’s contribution? Match figures of 1/137 as Sri Lanka famously batted for 199 overs in their second innings to save the game. And yet England persevered in the next two matches, finally beginning to see some reward with Plunkett taking 6/60 at Edgbaston and 4/101 at Trent Bridge. Unfortunately, that momentum was scuppered by him picking up an injury and missing the majority of the following series at home to Pakistan. (He was replaced by, of all people, Saj Mahmood. England promptly won the next match by an innings, with Saj contributing just 12 wicketless overs, presumably in the form of 72 slower-ball bouncers.)
Perhaps Plunkett’s finest hour came in the 2006/7 Ashes where he wasn’t selected for a single match, thus avoiding much of the criticism handed out to the rest of the squad. His Test career finished the following summer with three matches against the West Indies in which he again failed to make any sort of contribution before being squeezed out of the side by a fit-again Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom, setting in motion the series of events that would one day lead to us getting so angry that we eventually had to set this website up to let off steam.
Apparently Plunkett also played 29 ODIs. We’re damned if we can remember them, to be honest, although we’re fairly sure he was part of England’s Commonwealth Bank winning side from the series that really counted down under in 2007. He also played a single ODI after the 2010/11 Ashes when, presumably for a laugh, he was summoned from the Lions’ tour of the West Indies in order to play one match that no-one cared about and then fly all the way back. We struggle to find anything dumber that’s ever happened, ever.
With his fortunes waning like a see-saw carrying Samit Patel at one end and Ian Blackwell at the other, Plunkett returned to the county game where his game completely fell apart. He developed the yips, had to relearn how to bowl and found himself in Durham’s second XI, alongside the world’s second worst pundit, Steve Harmison. No prizes for guessing who the worst is. (A clue: it’s Nick Knight). From there Plunkett was eventually released and found himself a new home at Yorkshire, where he’s currently attempting to rebuild his career. We think it’s fair to say that we won’t be seeing him in an England kit any time soon though.