Brydon Carse eyes middle-overs role as England seek to fill Plunkett hole

Durham quick says he has been told to "be aggressive, use my pace, use my bouncer"

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Brydon Carse trapped Tom Cooper lbw in the second ODI  •  Getty Images

Brydon Carse trapped Tom Cooper lbw in the second ODI  •  Getty Images

The French footballer Claude Makélélé was a player so influential that a position was named after him: the deepest member of a midfield three plays in "the Makélélé role". English cricket has its own equivalent: a fast bowler hitting the pitch hard in the middle overs of an ODI operates in "the Plunkett role".
The hole left by Liam Plunkett's unceremonious exit from the England set-up has been vast since the 2019 World Cup, when he was the unsung hero of England's triumph with an all-star list of vital scalps in the middle overs - not least the wicket of Kane Williamson as he took 3 for 42 in the final. He was no longer a genuine quick bowler by that tournament but had developed a method to succeed, generally bowling cross-seam and looking to hit the top of the stumps or the splice of the bat.
England's decision to move on from Plunkett immediately after the final was brutal, but has ultimately proved justified: injuries limited him to 13 all-format appearances across the next two years and he is now in the United States, preparing to play his part in the launch of Major League Cricket.
But with ODI series few and far between - England have played only 20 games in the format since that World Cup, and many of those with a weakened squad - they have struggled to find a replacement for Plunkett: no England fast bowler has taken more than five middle-overs wickets in the last three years. Various seamers including Saqib Mahmood and Mark Wood have been tried in his mould but with moderate success at best.
Step forward, Brydon Carse, the South African-born fast bowler who is the latest man off the Durham production line. First capped during last year's ODI series against Pakistan when a second-string squad came together at short notice after a Covid outbreak, Carse has been used exclusively as a second-change bowler and has impressed, regularly hitting 90mph/145kph and bowling aggressive, "hard" lengths to keep batters on the back foot.
Against the Netherlands on Sunday, he replaced Sam Curran in the England side and bowled with hostility. He pinned Tom Cooper lbw with his second ball and cranked up the pace in his first spell, taking 1 for 14 from his first four overs without conceding a boundary and finding extra bounce to lift one short ball past Scott Edwards' grille.
He was less successful at the death, finishing with 1 for 36 from his seven overs, but is clearly learning on the job: Sunday was his fourth ODI appearance but only the 11th List A game of his career. England have picked him on potential. "It's great to see him hit the series with plenty of energy, plenty of pace and offer something different," Eoin Morgan said.
"[Morgan] has been very clear with me," Carse said. "He said I am going to come on first or second change and look to bowl through the middle, be aggressive, use my pace, use my bouncer and just make it difficult. I want to come on and be aggressive.
"I want to make an impact in the game. That might not necessarily be taking wickets, but creating opportunities from the other end." Plunkett, Carse added, is someone he is "striving to be like… he had a very good England career and if I can fulfil that role going forward, it's a big positive."
Carse hit a top speed of 91mph/146kph on Sunday, and said that he hoped his pace could "add a different dimension". "Obviously when things are clicking, it's good to bowl quick," he said. "If I can be bowling in and around that 90mph mark then I'm sure it will create opportunities for me in any side in which I am playing."
Sunday's ODI was Carse's first England game under Morgan, having made his debut when Ben Stokes stood in as captain last summer. Stokes has been a prominent advocate of Carse's ability and with several fast bowlers injured, it seems like a matter of time before Carse is named in a Test squad.
But for his own knee injury, which he suffered on the Lions tour to Australia last winter, Carse might well have pushed his case in time for the ongoing New Zealand series, but Jamie Overton moved ahead of him in the pecking order after impressing at the start of the County Championship season while Carse was sidelined.
He has a close relationship with Matthew Potts, his county team-mate, who has impressed in his first Tests for England, and said that it had been inspiring to see him succeed at Test level. "Matthew really has come a long way in the last 18 months as a bowler," Carse said. "He works hard on and off the field and he thoroughly deserves where he's at the moment.
"[A Test cap] is something definitely in the back of my mind," he added. "I want to play red and white-ball cricket, and I want to play Test cricket for England." But in the short term, Carse's focus is on filling the Plunkett role: if he can do so on a regular basis, it would be invaluable for England.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98