Liam Plunkett stuck to his aggressive principles and reaped the rewards as England jockeyed a marginally advantageous position in the second Test against India at Lord’s on Saturday.
The all-rounder’s maiden Test 50 helped the hosts to 319 all out, and a lead of 24; then, after a second-wicket stand of 74 between Murali Vijay (59no) and Cheteshwar Pujara, he put himself on a Test hat-trick for the third time this summer.
As at Headingley last month, Yorkshire pace bowler Plunkett did not manage the three-in-three – in fact, he has never done so in his first-class career – but he induced a wobble of three wickets for five runs, before Vijay and Mahendra Singh Dhoni closed out day three on 169-4.
For Plunkett, who took nine wickets against Sir Lanka in Leeds, another impressive performance has consolidated his belated return to Test cricket.
If the 29-year-old learned anything in his seven-year absence, it was that he must be true to what works best for him.
He has often been deployed by captain Alastair Cook to rattle opposition batsmen with bounce and pace – and although it was a fuller length that brought him the wickets of Pujara and then Virat Kohli here, his intent was the same.
“I changed my length. I obviously got my lengths wrong first innings,” he said. “But I’m quite an aggressive bowler.
“That’s how I’ve got myself back in the England team – by being aggressive – and I got my wickets at Headingley by being aggressive, with some short stuff on a wicket that nipped around early as well.”
Plunkett made the shortest possible work of Kohli and added: “When Kohli came in, I just wanted to hit off-stump as hard as I could. I was trying to get the nick, but it just kept its line and took the top of off.”
The hat-trick ball passed wide of Dhoni, but Plunkett knows these days he can take wickets in clusters when he gets it right.
He began his all-round contribution with an unbeaten 55, and an important half-century stand with Matt Prior in which his attacking instincts also paid off.
“Matt and I are both quite aggressive players, and if the ball is in our area we tend to score off it,” he said. “I take pride in my batting. I love to do it.”
Plunkett was promoted to No 7 as nightwatchman the previous evening, and made a much better fist of the role than he had when he made a second-innings duck on the way to defeat at Headingley.