LIAM PLUNKETT believes the Headingley pitch will help him more than the one at Lord’s as he looks to unleash another fusillade of Mitchell Johnson-esque firepower at the Sri Lankan batsmen in the second Investec Test match which gets underway tomorrow.
The Yorkshire pace bowler – the closest thing England have to an enforcer like the Australian Johnson – is confident it will be a case of home sweet home on a surface likely to provide more pace and carry than the one on which he made his international return in London after a seven-year absence.
Plunkett is set to keep his place in an unchanged side as England seek to shrug off the disappointment of failing to kill off Sri Lanka at Lord’s, where the tourists held on with nine wickets down in their second innings despite a stirring closing session in which the home team captured six wickets.
Plunkett’s contribution to the last-day drama was 0-39 from 16 overs but he had the batsmen hopping about sufficiently on a slow, placid pitch to suggest that expected livelier conditions in Leeds can play into his and England’s hands.
As he looked ahead to his second Test appearance at Headingley after he took 4-60 in an innings win against West Indies in 2007, but his first Test match at the venue as a Yorkshire player, Plunkett said: “Hopefully, there will be a bit more bounce and carry at Headingley than there was at Lord’s.
“It’s not like the old Headingley pitches, back in the day, when the ball used to go up and down all the time.
“It will be interesting to see the surface that’s prepared.
“I hope the wicket will help me more and we’ve got that bounce and pace in the pitch.”
Plunkett has got plenty of life from the pitches for Yorkshire this year.
In three County Championship games at the ground, he has taken eight wickets at 27.12, and although he troubled the tourists at Lord’s – not least Mahela Jayawardene, who struggled with his around-the-wicket attack – the sluggish surface did not suit.
“There wasn’t a lot of pace in it,” said Plunkett.
“Jayawardene was jumping around a little bit, and a bouncer off the glove could have carried.
“On another day, I could have come away with a few more wickets.
“But I was happy with my performance and felt as though I did a good job.”
Plunkett is one of three Yorkshire players in the England team along with Joe Root and Gary Ballance.
Root scored 200 not out at Lord’s – prompting a playful text message from Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie that he had fallen short of Gillespie’s Test-best 201 not out for Australia against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2006 – and Ballance hit an unbeaten 104, his maiden Test hundred.
“It’s a proud thing for the county,” said Plunkett. “Gaz and Rooty got runs last week, and we’ve also got players like Bres (Tim Bresnan) and Jonny (Bairstow) who’ve played for England recently.
“It will be great to play a Test at Headingley again. The northern people come out and cheer, and obviously it’s a good atmosphere.”
Plunkett slotted seamlessly back into the England set-up
A more confident cricketer than when he last played Tests in 2007, he was determined to enjoy the Lord’s experience.
“You always want more wickets, more runs, but, as corny as it sounds, it was just nice to be there,” he said.
“To be honest, I slept as well last week as I’ve slept for the last six months, and it was just so good to be part of the team.
“England brought me in to bowl quick and aggressive, which is what I do for Yorkshire. I tried to bowl with controlled aggression.”
One man who has faced Plunkett at Headingley this year is Ian Bell. The Warwickshire batsman – who is making his 100th Test appearance – scored 97 against Yorkshire in a County Championship game last month.
“That pitch for the Championship match was really good,” said Bell. “All the nicks carried, which is what we want. Plunkett bowled fast, coming down the hill, and it will be great for us and everyone watching if he bowls like that.
“Hopefully, there will be the pace for the nicks to carry, which didn’t quite happen at Lord’s.” Bell, who believes he is “batting as well as I ever have in my career”, has come a long way since he was the butt of Shane Warne’s sledges during the 2005 Ashes.
He described being dropped by England in 2009 as “the key turning point” of his career and he will become the 12th England player to win 100 Test caps after Alec Stewart (133), Graham Gooch (118), David Gower (117), Michael Atherton (115), Colin Cowdrey (114), Geoffrey Boycott (108), Kevin Pietersen (104), Alastair Cook (103), Ian Botham (102), Andrew Strauss (100) and Graham Thorpe (100).