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Jon Culley at Headingley
May 12, 2014
Warwickshire 136-6 (Bell 58*) trail Yorkshire 444 (Plunkett 86, Williamson 75, Root 69, Bresnan 61, Woakes 3-43, Barker 3-69) by 308 runs
As Tim Bresnan waits anxiously for England's selectors to announce their first Sri Lanka line-ups, there will be some interest, too, in Liam Plunkett. Yorkshire's former Durham fast bowler has not played for his country since 2011 and the two-year spell in which he was a regular in the side ended seven years ago, in July 2007.
A recall at the age of 29 would not be in keeping with England's policy of looking to the future rather than the past but his performances in the last year and a half have been enough to get people talking. His dedication to his gym work has enhanced his fitness, enabling him to bowl fast for longer, and the way he has been managed, by a captain and coaches who believe in him, has rekindled the enthusiasm that his last years with Durham seemed to sap.
He has always been blessed with pace but the anecdotal evidence is that he may be quicker now even than in his vigorous youth. He has also retained his ability to supplement his value as a bowler by regularly scoring not insignificant runs with the bat, as he did here, leading a telling contribution from Yorkshire's lower order that left Warwickshire's decision to bowl first ultimately look the wrong one.
He took on Warwickshire's attack in the morning and they did not come out of it well, conceding 90 runs in 19 overs in a morning session twice interrupted by rain without taking a wicket. After Bresnan's 61, Steve Patterson added 43 to the runs plundered by the Yorkshire bowlers, sharing a stand with Plunkett that generated 104 runs for the ninth wicket and secured not only a third batting point for Yorkshire but the luxury of a fourth, which was not a bad recovery from 181 for 6.
Plunkett reminded me of Ashes - Bell
It looked better still as Warwickshire struggled to the close six wickets down and still 167 short of avoiding the follow-on. Only Ian Bell, still there on 58, looked capable of sticking around on a pitch that still had plenty in it for the bowler.
Jeetan Patel snared Patterson, caught at backward short leg, but Plunkett had more to give. He had hooked Richard Jones for six to complete a 51-ball half-century and now went after Patel, with a couple of meaty blows down the ground as well as a reverse sweep for four. He gave Woakes a taste of it too with a big blow over mid-wicket, and although the young England all-rounder had the last word as the old one holed out to deep point, by then he had made 86 off just 75 deliveries.
It is his highest score for Yorkshire but his 19th first-class score of 50 or more, of which he has turned two into hundreds, the latest of which came for England Lions in Sri Lanka in February during a tour in which he made a good impression all round.
But it is his bowling that has excited his supporters and it was his hostility that did much to have Warwickshire in trouble with the bat as they began their reply. Even a batsman as accomplished as Bell had to fight hard for survival as Plunkett, on as first change, peppered him with short balls, fending away from his body with two men positioned for catches on the leg side. It was a crucial contest given Warwickshire's heavy reliance so far on the England batsman.
Bell survived that early joust but Warwickshire, who had lost an out-of-form Varun Chopra to the ninth ball of the innings, late into his shot and spectacularly bowled by Jack Brooks, who can also work up some speed, still ran into trouble.
Laurie Evans, another who needs a score, was missed in the last over of Brooks's first spell when he edged between wicketkeeper and first slip but when Steve Pattersoon took over at the Rugby Stand End, his fifth ball had Evans caught at first slip. Plunkett took a breather after six overs but Brooks continued the trial by speed and Warwickshire lost their fourth wicket when Ateeq Javid was leg before, his reactions beaten for pace.
Bell is less easily prised out. Tim Ambrose stuck with him for a while, before Bresnan had him caught at first slip, which left Chris Woakes, yet another short of form with the bat, needing to make this his moment to find some. He struck his second, third and fourth balls for four off Brooks but thereafter scratched out only three more singles before he went down the wicket to Kane Williamson's off-spin and was bowled.
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