Monday, 13 November 2006

The anonymous man

Liam Plunkett was a borderline selection for this Ashes trip. His Test record so far is mediocre, averaging close to 38 with the ball and just 8 with the bat – appalling considering his batting is supposedly Test number eight standard.

I would have preferred to see either Stuart Broad Chris Tremlett, both of whom are at the Academy, to fill the role of back-up seamer. Broad is just 20 but showed in the ODIs against Pakistan he has a big-match temperament, while he is also at least as good a batsman as Plunkett. Tremlett has an excellent record at first-class level; his pace, aided by the bounce he generates from his huge 6ft 7in frame, is ideally suited to Australian conditions.

But England went for Plunkett. Though just 21, he has already displayed a maturity at Test Match level and has very seldom been overawed. He generates good pace and seam movement; but for a bowler who supposedly builds pressure primarily through economy, the 3.6 runs an over he goes for in Tests are palpably too many. In short, Plunkett is a good young bowler who appears to have been catapulted into the international scene too early.

It doesn’t really matter. Barring a injury list of cataclysmic proportions, Plunkett’s role in the fate of the urn will not extend beyond enthusiastic drinks carrying. At this stage in his career, England fans will prefer it that way.

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