Liam Plunkett has taken to Twitter to clarify his comments about free-to-air access to the World Cup, after appearing to call for the final to be shown on terrestrial television if England make it through next week's semi-final in Edgbaston.
Plunkett's recall for the past two matches against India and New Zealand helped England to overcome a wobble in the group stages, and seal their progression to the last four of the World Cup for the first time since 1992. They will face either India or Australia in the second semi-final on July 11, with the final at Lord's following three days later on July 14.
Speaking in the wake of England's 119-run win over New Zealand at Chester-le-Street, Plunkett was asked by the BBC's 5 Live Breakfast Show whether he would support calls for the final to be made available on free-to-air, given that the World Cup has been overshadowed in terms of viewing figures by the women's football World Cup - England's semi-final against the USA on Tuesday drew 11.7 million viewers, making it the BBC's biggest television audience of the year. England's World Cup cricket fixtures, by contrast, have drawn an average of 450,000.
.@SkyCricket are an incredible partner for the game and have been for the past 20+ years.— Liam plunkett (@Liam628) July 4, 2019
I was asked a question & I never said that it should be on FTA. My words have been twisted & the headline is misleading.
The whole country is behind us. Keep believing. #WeAreEngland
"I'm not sure they're going to do it, but it would great for everybody to be able to watch that," Plunkett said. "Playing for England, you're the pride of the country and you want people to be able to access that and watch that. I'm not sure it's going to happen but for the guys, you want as many people to watch it as possible."
Although the ECB is understood to have held talks with Sky about the status of the World Cup final, it is now unlikely that the match will be made available beyond Sky's own subscribers. There is a possibility that it will be shown on Sky One, which is estimated to reach half of the households in Britain, and one-off subscriptions may be also made available through Sky's Now TV platform.
"It's always nice to be on a bigger platform," Plunkett added. "Hopefully people tune in to watch that game. It would obviously be great to have as many people watching as possible, we feel like we've built something special here as a team. It would be nice to go all the way and to have big numbers watching that final if we get through and win, that would be huge."
A proportion of free-to-air cricket access is set to be reinstated from next year onwards, with the advent of the ECB's new 100-ball competition, after Sky agreed to cede some of its exclusivity to the BBC as part of a new £1.1billion rights deal from 2020-2024.
Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive who brokered the deal, recently described Sky as "cricket's best friend" - the broadcaster has been involved in cricket since 1990 and has been the exclusive partner for home internationals since 2006 - and Plunkett later tweeted to clarify his remarks.
"Sky Cricket are an incredible partner for the game and have been for the past 20+ years," he wrote. "I was asked a question & I never said that it should be on FTA. My words have been twisted & the headline is misleading. The whole country is behind us. Keep believing."