No regrets for Liam Plunkett after putting wedding ahead of England duty

Fast bowler has lost his starting berth to Olly Stone, but insists he's comfortable with competition for places

Liam Plunkett made timely breakthroughs for England, England v Australia, 2nd ODI, Cardiff, June 16, 2018

Liam Plunkett made timely breakthroughs for England  •  Getty Images

When you're part of an outfit that is as successful and confident as this England one-day team, players are driven forward by all sorts of surprising pressures.
Take the case of fast bowler Liam Plunkett. He is a high-performing incumbent in the side, having taken 54 wickets at an average of 23.83 since the start of 2017. Aside from his bowling, Plunkett has also been known to give the ball a clobbering, batting in the lower order. But having missed the first three ODIs to get married - an unforeseen scheduling change in the series meant the clash could not be avoided - Plunkett returns in the knowledge that there are others now vying for his place in the XI.
"We were so far into the wedding preparation, and with my wife Emeleah being American, a lot of people had booked flights, and I wasn't interested in paying them back," Plunkett said of missing the start of the series. "But in the back of your mind you know someone will come in and do well - that's just sport, right? It's good for the team that people come in and do well. I think England know what I can bring to the game.
"And if I don't get the nudge, I will graft hard. People forget for the first seven years of my England career, I didn't play, I was 12th man the whole time. I know how to deal with the situation. Hopefully I get the nod and play one or two games here, but if not I'll hopefully get a go again."
The man who replaced him in the XI for the two games that have been played so far, was Olly Stone - a 25-year-old capable of regularly breaching 145kph. Stone had troubled the Sri Lanka top order in the second ODI, taking the wicket of opener Niroshan Dickwella with a sharp bouncer, and beating several other batsmen with deliveries that he got to seam off the pitch, as well as bounce.
England captain Eoin Morgan had been impressed by that performance, and even pointed out an area in which Stone is perhaps better than the man he has stepped in for: where Plunkett's pace is used primarily during the middle overs and the death, Stone could be used as a new-ball option as well. As a result, there's now a little extra strain on Plunkett to work on his new-ball bowling.
"I don't look for a ball in the nets that's old - I always pick a new ball up because you want to work on your skills," Plunkett said. "In T20 it's similar, you might be on in the second or third over when the ball's new. I used to be a swing bowler, but now I'm more of a hit-the-deck bowler. Who knows? As I get older a little swing might come back into my game and in two or three years I might be opening the bowling again."
In any case, for now, England have the option of not rushing Plunkett back into the XI. Plunkett only arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, and perhaps has not quite acclimatised as well as his teammates yet. He insists, though, that he is not short of bowling practice.
"I did a lot in the last six or seven weeks, I found an indoor centre so I was bowling 30 or 40 overs a week. I've been keeping tabs on it and training hard. I don't think I'm lacking overs, I've bowled a lot. It's just getting used to the temperature."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf