Liam Edward Plunkett
April 06, 1985, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
Liam Plunkett didn't gain too many headlines after England's World Cup victory - Ben Stokes made sure of that - but, by the time the tournament ended, he could rest assured he had played a full part in the triumph.
By claiming three wickets in the final - including the key one of Kane Willamson - Plunkett had replicated the role he had fulfilled all tournament: offering his captain control and the promise of wickets in the middle-overs.
It had felt, in the months ahead of the announcement of the final squad for the World Cup, that 34-year-old Plunkett was clinging on to his place. His pace, once as sharp as anyone in the land, had dropped and his spot in the side was under threat from the likes of David Willey, Chris Jordan and the Curran brothers.
Ultimately, however, his increasing skill - his cutters, delivered from height, proved desperately hard for batsmen to negotiate on surfaces that proved surprisingly receptive for him - won him a place in the squad and it was no coincidence that England won all seven of the World Cup matches he played. Both his economy-rate - he conceded 4.85 runs per over - and average - his 11 wickets came at a cost of 24.11 apiece - were among the best in the competition. Still, it was not a complete surprise when, just a couple of months later, his name was omitted from the list of central contracts for the following year. "Disappointment is an understatement," he tweeted in response.
Plunkett had feared his career was over long before all that. A move south, from Durham to Yorkshire, after the 2012 season, revived him. Rather than slipping out of the game, he rediscovered his pace and ambition in one of English cricket's story-book recoveries. England, pummelled by the Australian Mitchell Johnson, and eager to find an out-and-out quick bowler of their own, liked what they saw during a Lions recall, and he played the four Tests of the 2014 summer as a shock trooper - two each against Sri Lanka and India - before succumbing to injury.
Plunkett's return was not entirely untroubled; at times his control deserted him and his around-the-wicket approach did not always drum up the anticipated menace. But he stayed true to the exhortations of Yorkshire's coach, Jason Gillespie, to keep it simple and just bowl fast and he took 18 wickets in four Tests, with his match figures of nine for 176 against Sri Lanka on his adopted home ground of Headingley the highlight, a feat overshadowed by Sri Lanka's last-over win. Sternly bearded, with an upright style and strikingly gym-honed upper body, he regularly exceeded speeds of 90mph, but England seemed to conclude that subtlety and control was missing and thereafter chose to utilise him exclusively in white-ball cricket.
Plunkett's initial selection for England's tour of Pakistan and India in 2005-06 represented the culmination of a two-year rise to prominence. A bustling fast-medium seamer blessed with an ability to bowl an occasional unplayable ball and a powerful striker down the order, he briefly promised to have a lengthy international career only for issues with his control - and, in his final season at Durham in 2012, a loss of confidence in his action - to lower his sights.
Having made his first-class debut for Durham in 2003, Plunkett took on immediate responsibilities in the absence of Steve Harmison and the injured Mark Davies, and in 2005 took 50 wickets in a season for the first time. He made his Test debut in a thumping England defeat against Pakistan in Lahore, following the withdrawal of Simon Jones with an ankle injury, and announced himself as a capable allrounder with a composed half-century in only his second ODI against the same opposition.
He was selected for England's Ashes campaign in Australia in 2006-7 and for seven gruelling weeks he was the forgotten man of a dismal Test tour. But as England, against all predictions, regrouped to win the one-day series, he seized his opportunity to impress with 12 wickets in the one-day series, including 3 for 43 in the decisive second final against Australia. It was a performance that secured his World Cup passage, though he only played three games and lacked the incisiveness he had shown in Australia.
A lack of England engagements freed Plunkett up for his Durham duties, and in 2007 he played a role in their first domestic trophy triumph, in their sixteenth year of first-class status, taking three wickets as Durham won the rain-interrupted Friends Provident final by 125 runs at Lord's. A regular in England Lions squads, Plunkett spent a winter as the Dolphins' overseas player in South Africa in 2007-08 and shared in Durham's Championship success the following summer. Durham retained the title in 2009 and Plunkett was at the forefront of their success with 49 wickets in the season, including match figures of 9 for 149 in the innings win over Nottinghamshire that sealed the title.
Plunkett looked set for a second crack at international cricket when he was named in England's squad for their Test series against South Africa in 2009-10, but he was overtaken by the likes of Graham Onions, his Durham team mate, Stuart Broad and Ajmal Shahzad in the fast-bowling ranks and has had to be content with sporadic appearances since.
Subsequently, a combination of injuries and problems with his action saw Plunkett slip down the pecking order at Durham and after two lean seasons, amounting to three Championship appearances, he was told he could look for a new county. Yorkshire took the opportunity to offer him a three-year contract, enabling him to team up again with his former Durham coach, Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket at Headingley, who like Gillespie proved a positive influence. He immediately showed signs of a resurgence, taking 36 wickets in 12 Championship matches. Yorkshire capped him. As he was born in Middlesbrough - part of the old county boundaries - they felt they had been entitled to him all along. With the club looking to rebuild, however, he moved to Surrey on a three-year deal at the end of the 2018 season.
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