A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

Liam Plunkett: The Time Is Now

Posted on February 23, 2014 by in Opinion, Scorer's Notes


If there’s one thing that we learned from the Ashes down under, it’s that watching Brett Lee bowling bodyline stuff at Piers Morgan from halfway down the pitch is generally quite amusing. Hideously barbaric perhaps, but funny nonetheless. In the end it was only that fateful thud of ball repeatedly smacking into a combination of padding and bone that led us to put away the bleach cocktails and return to using gin to get through a relentless series of humiliating beatings.

If there was one other thing that we learned, it’s that there are now vacancies galore in the England side. The batting lineup has more holes in it than India’s away record while there are two spots up for grabs in the bowling attack, that of the spinner and the third seamer (after the fairly locked-in Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson).

We’ve talked about the role of England’s lead spinner before, in an article that turned out to be (a) pretty bloody depressing and (b) terrifyingly close to the truth. But today we’re going to have a look at that third seamer role. And for us, there’s only one candidate.

Spoiler: it isn't Boyd Rankin.

Spoiler: it isn’t Boyd Rankin.

In another of our massively successful exercises in time wasting a while back, we came up with a fairly simple method for scoring the 2013 county cricket season. And it’s to this that we’ll turn to try and identify our new man.

To start with, we’re only interested in performances in Division One of the County Championship; Division Two just doesn’t cut it, which is bad news for Darren Stevens, although probably not his main concern just at the moment. Plus we only want people who actually made the effort to turn up on more than a handful of occasions, which means that the likes of Luke Wright sadly miss out. And obviously, we need someone English who bowls at a decent lick.

With those important criteria in place, we end up with a handful of top performers to choose from, based on their points per game:

  1. Graeme Onions (70 wickets at 18.46, 148 runs at 12.33): Yes, Onions can bowl. But we see him as the eventual ‘line and length’ replacement for Jimmy Anderson, rather than a complement. So his time will come. And pretty quickly, given how utterly knackered Jimmy looked in Australia.
  2. Chris Woakes (31 wickets at 22.94, 640 runs at 58.18): Woakes has already had a bit of a stab at Test cricket. It didn’t really go all that well, although Simon Kerrigan can probably take the blame for that. The general consensus is that Woakes would be ideal as a number six batting all-rounder. Unfortunately for him, that’s the one role that’s actually locked down.

    Apart from this one.

    Apart from this one.

  3. Chris Jordan (59 wickets at 26.75, 408 runs at 24): Was used in the ODIs in Australia, but it didn’t work out all that well, so back to the drawing board.
  4. Keith Barker (46 wickets at 22.93, 350 runs at 31.82): Barker clearly has some promise but, even with Ashley Giles perched on Andy Flower’s shoulder, he still couldn’t force his way into England reckoning. There must be something amiss. Perhaps they see him more as a footballer.
  5. Tim Murtagh (60 wickets at 20.40, 112 runs at 10.18): We’re pretty sure he’s Irish these days.
  6. Liam Plunkett (36 wickets at 28.33, 394 runs at 26.27): Bingo.

Plunkett can bat – he made a hundred against the prestigious Sri Lanka A Emerging Players side just a week or so ago; he can bowl – he once cleaned up Adam Gilchrist from the opening ball of an ODI – and he can probably field. He definitely caught Murali at point once, and that’s good enough for us. Plus he must have a shit load of air miles by now, so could probably pay for his own travel.

To add to that mixture, Plunkett is genuinely experienced. Nearly a decade has passed since his Test debut and in that time he’s been from the top to the bottom and back again. And we don’t mean travelling to Hove for a one day game, we mean in terms of nearly drifting away from the game altogether. But now he’s firing on all cylinders.

The same probably can't be said for his former bowling partner.

The same probably can’t be said for his former bowling partner.

Moving forward, England will sooner or later end up with Ben Stokes at number six and Jos Buttler at number seven. While they’re both clearly very capable players, there’s clearly a need for a genuinely solid number eight behind them, especially with Broad, Anderson/Onions and (presumably) a non-batting spinner to come. Plunkett fits the bill, while also understanding the role of third seamer perfectly. With Ben Stokes as well, there’s definitely the makings of a decent attack there.

Plus he’s always been a huge supporter of us on Twitter. Which is obviously just a massive coincidence.


Post a Comment


Nichael Bluth

24 Feb 2014 09:06

I’m pretty sure he’s behind Saj now.



24 Feb 2014 06:07

Advocate Finn now or I will hunt you down



23 Feb 2014 11:59

Not sure how Onions can be an “eventual” anything – he’s 32 this year. I know he’s never been the quickest, but if he doesn’t get a call-up soon, we’ll have a fully grey-haired bowler. He needs to be in the team (and at least the bloody squad) now.