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Liam Livingstone crucial to England's white-ball plans despite ODI inexperience

Allrounder's place in first-choice XI for World Cup defence increasingly looks to be in place of Eoin Morgan

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Liam Livingstone prepares for England's final ODI in the Netherlands  •  Getty Images

Liam Livingstone prepares for England's final ODI in the Netherlands  •  Getty Images

Liam Livingstone has become such an integral part of England's white-ball plans that it seems surreal that Wednesday's fixture against the Netherlands in Amstelveen will be only the sixth appearance of his ODI career. He had two cameos at No. 6 in Pune 15 months ago and filled in as an opener for the injured Jason Roy against Sri Lanka last summer but his 50-over opportunities have been few and far between, with the format on the back-burner since the 2019 World Cup.
And yet, it is implausible that England will start the defence of their title in India next October without Livingstone in the side: he is the personification of their ultra-attacking batting style, as proved by his 17-ball half-century in the first ODI on Friday, and his success in Indian conditions earlier this year and ability to bowl legspin and offbreaks in the same over make him an indispensable player.
The only question is how England will fit him into their first-choice XI, and the answer increasingly looks to be in place of Eoin Morgan, who has made consecutive ducks in this series and skipped Tuesday's optional training session at the VRA as he continues to manage his workload amid concerns about his medium-term fitness.
Morgan admitted before this series that the 2023 World Cup felt "a long way away" and looks increasingly likely to step down as captain after the T20 World Cup in Australia this year; with Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Livingstone in their top six, England would be overflowing with bowling options without sacrificing their batting depth.
Livingstone described his success for Punjab Kings at the IPL this year as getting "the monkey off my back", having previously struggled in his sporadic appearances for Rajasthan Royals. He was signed for Rs 11.5 crore (£1.125m approx) at February's auction, the highest sum for an overseas player, and repaid the franchise with 437 runs from the middle order at a strike rate of 182.08, bettered only by Dinesh Karthik and his Lancashire team-mate Tim David.
"I don't think it could have gone any worse [than previous years] to be honest," Livingstone said on Tuesday after training. "There was only one way and that was up. I hadn't really had too much opportunity before but there's always people who say certain things. It's the biggest tournament in the world, so it was nice to be able to do well.
"It was nice to have a clear role. We go away and play in the IPL so that we can become accustomed to their conditions and that ultimately will help England in a World Cup next year. Any experience you get around the world with World Cups coming up is a great thing to have so I really enjoyed it. It was nice to finally get the monkey off my back about not being able to do it in the IPL."
His versatility with the ball also boosts his case for inclusion in India. "We spend time with Numbers [Nathan Leamon] the analyst and whatever the match-up is, we probably try and go with that," he said. "I'm pretty comfortable with chopping and changing mid-over: I'm used to it because I have done so much of it in T20 cricket. If we think somebody has a bigger weakness with the ball turning in I will happily spin the ball into them."
Livingstone's explosiveness in the middle order was in evidence in Friday's first match, when he was primed for the fastest-ever ODI fifty before two air-shots on 48 saw him fall short of AB de Villiers' benchmark. He pleaded ignorance to the possibility of taking that crown - and to the fact that consecutive sixes off the last two balls would have taken England to the first-ever score of 500 in a 50-over game - but he could not have hoped for much better than his 66 not out off 22 balls.
Going hard from ball one "is something I've tried to work on for the last couple of years," Livingstone said. "It's something that's probably got me into this team. It's starting to become a little bit more familiar now: I did it throughout the whole of the IPL and have done it more and more in the England team.
"A lot of it comes from practice. One of the biggest things we've got from this group is the trust that it's not always going to come off: some days it's not going to work out and that's absolutely fine. We've got trust in everybody's ability around us that if it's not your day, somebody else will do it for you."
Livingstone had never played cricket on Dutch soil before this series and said that he had relished being "free from a bubble" after spending most of the last two years confined to his hotel room on tours. He said it was "brilliant" for England to play against the Netherlands and that Friday's world-record ODI total would live long in the memory of the 5,000 or so travelling fans who witnessed it.
"It's brilliant any time we can go to the so-called smaller countries and grow the game," he said. "I'm sure everyone in the ground will remember that day for a long while. That's the entertainment part of it: we are in the entertainment business. We're there to entertain and thankfully, we have a lot of talent that can do that. It's always good fun when we're involved in a game of cricket, wherever it is in the world."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98