The importance of Liam Plunkett to England’s 2019 ICC World Cup campaign was highlighted once again with the pacer playing a starring role in the final at Lord’s against New Zealand on Sunday.
While all eyes on Sunday were on England’s express pacers Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, it was Plunkett who turned out to be the destroyer-in-chief for the hosts with three crucial scalps in the middle overs.
The 24-year-old returned with figures of 3-42 and his performance was the centrepiece of England’s strong and disciplined bowling display which saw New Zealand restricted to 241-8 in their 50 overs.
Here, we take a closer look at Plunkett’s showing in the World Cup final after New Zealand elected to bat first.
Runs conceded: 42
After losing opener Martin Guptill early to Chris Woakes, New Zealand had recovered well through a promising stand between Henry Nicholls and skipper Kane Williamson. Their 74-run stand was broken in the 23rd over by Plunkett who found a faint outside edge off Williamson’s bat with an excellent cross-seam delivery.
Moments later, the veteran dismissed the other well-set batsman in Nicholls after getting the left-hander to play on to his stumps. Those two dismissals derailed the Kiwi momentum and Plunkett then put England on top when he ended the stay of the dangerous James Neesham in his final spell.
Plunkett used the cross-seam delivery to deadly effect at Lord’s with all three of his dismissals coming in that mode. The one to dismiss Williamson moved just slightly away in the air at the last moment to deceive the New Zealand skipper and the same movement proved to be Nicholls’ downfall when he attempted to drive at a delivery too close to his body.
With the ball just holding up on the Lord’s surface, the cross-seamer turned out to be the perfect weapon and Plunkett was able to extract maximum reward from it.
He also maintained excellent control throughout and did not concede a single wide or no-ball in his 10 overs.
Liam Plunkett and the middle overs.— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) July 14, 2019
Name a more iconic duo... we'll wait. pic.twitter.com/zRbeoBME6t
The medium-pacer barely erred in his second and third spells by giving the batsman little room although he was slightly off target in his first spell with a newer ball.
His first spell of three overs did little to trouble Williamson and Nicholls while also leaking a few boundaries. To his credit, Plunkett adjusted his lines and lengths brilliantly in his subsequent spells.
VERDICT – 9/10
He isn’t the flashiest of bowlers but Plunkett has been quietly effective for England all tournament long in the middle overs. He has reinvented himself constantly over the course of his career and now seems to understand his role in the team to perfection.
His dismissals of Williamson and Nicholls were crucial in wrestling back the initiative for England and ensured that the Kiwis were not able to build a solid foundation. England have had to drop Moeen Ali to make way for Plunkett but that decision has been vindicated completely with the medium pacer now extending his tournament tally to 11 wickets in seven appearances.
The 2019 World Cup was memorable in more ways than one, with the balance between bat and ball allowing for some excellent cricket.
While we have been lucky enough to see what the future has to offer in the form of some fine performances from Shaheen Afridi, Nicholas Pooran and others, it was also the end of the road as far as the 50-over World Cup is concerned for some veterans of the game.
Here we take a look at the performances of five big names who have played their last World Cup. Unless they change their minds a few years down the line.
Sri Lanka cricket was ready to move on from the Malinga chapter. He even spent the 2018 IPL as mentor at the Mumbai Indians franchise.
But Malinga didn’t give up on his World Cup hopes. Drawing every last ounce of strength from his 35-year-old body, Malinga fought his way back to cricketing fitness and roared back into form as a bowler for Mumbai Indians, defending eight runs in the final over to win the IPL title against Chennai Super Kings.
At the World Cup, Malinga delivered three stunning match-winning efforts – against Afghanistan, England and West Indies. It was his four-for against England that truly opened up the World Cup and the cricketing world is glad it got to see the famous Malinga yorker – or at least a mellower version of it – one last time.
The Universe Boss was definitely going to bid adieu after the 2019 World Cup. But ahead of the India match, Gayle had second thoughts and said he will play ODIs and a Test (that’s right) against India later in the year.
One thing is for sure though – this was Gayle’s last 50-over World Cup and it was unimpressive. A fifty in the opening game against Pakistan and an 87 against New Zealand were his only major contributions, with his strike rate nowhere near it once was.
Gayle did start to bowl again – in Aviators – as wickets started to become more conducive to off-spin. That, unfortunately, provided more smiles than his stays at the crease.
Though it hasn’t been said publicly, it is the last World Cup for MS Dhoni with suggestions he might retire altogether after the tournament.
The fastest hands in the game continues to be lightning quick with the gloves but with the bat in hand, the zip was gone. His insistence on starting slow and taking the game into the final two overs resulted in some inexplicably slow knocks – like the 52-ball 28 against Afghanistan that almost cost the game. His failure to seal the deal in the crunch semi-final chase against the Kiwis with Ravindra Jadeja going great guns at the other end reinforced the view.
However, his tactical nous and command over the game have been critical to Virat Kohli’s limited overs gameplan. Indian cricket will miss his cricketing brain more than anything whenever he hangs up his gloves.
The Bangladesh captain has a lot on his plate – he is a member of parliament after all. His hamstrings were basically gone and as the tournament went on, Mashrafe struggled to even bend down, pick up the ball and throw.
But there he was, match after match, bowling his overs and holding one end up – or at least trying to – as Shakib Al Hasan scored a mountain of runs and picked up wickets.
Mortaza admitted his bowlers didn’t perform nearly as well as the batsmen did. But his leadership is what galvanised the Tigers into a fighting, world-class outfit and his solitary wicket from nine games, therefore, should be viewed with a more sympathetic eye.
How we will miss those wild wicket celebrations. Tahir entered the tournament in peak form following a remarkable IPL. He made a superb start to the World Cup, getting Jonny Bairstow out for a golden duck. And he maintained his threat level even as other leg spinners struggled – be it Adam Zampa, Shadab Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal or Adil Rashid.
Not only was Tahir the second highest wicket-taker among spinners in the league stage – 11 from nine games – his economy was also among the best among top slow bowlers – 4.92. And then that celebration. The World Cup will miss him.
It all comes down to this.
The home of cricket plays host to the final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup with England and New Zealand both hunting for their first ever title.
The hosts stormed to a comfortable victory when the two sides faced off in the group stage. But form and history mean less in knockout cricket.
Will Jason Roy and Joe Root overcome New Zealand’s fiery bowling attack and take England over the line? Will Kane Williamson pull off yet another heroic act and take his team to glory?
The Kiwis bat first. Follow it live here.