Champions Trophy: Liam Plunkett embraces task of offsetting Chris Woakes’s England absence

Liam Plunkett, right, wants to take wickets not just be part of Englands line-up to make the numbers up (Picture: PA).
Liam Plunkett, right, wants to take wickets not just be part of Englands line-up to make the numbers up (Picture: PA).
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YORKSHIRE’S Liam Plunkett will take it upon himself to fill the void left by the injury that has robbed England of “massive player” Chris Woakes in the Champions Trophy.

Plunkett has already made a decent fist of the emergency assignment, his 4-59 in the hosts’ emphatic opening win over Bangladesh taking his annual one-day international wickets tally to 24 in 10 matches.

Woakes bowled just two overs before leaving the field on Thursday.

Then, less than 24 hours later, after scans at close of play, an England and Wales Cricket Board statement confirmed what everyone suspected – that he will play no further part in the tournament.

While England decide who will be his injury replacement, Plunkett has delivered an assurance that he is up for the challenge of leading England’s attack over the next two and a half weeks. He found himself in Woakes’s shoes already, stepping in to help bowl the ‘death’ overs and picking up two big wickets with successive deliveries in the 45th as Bangladesh centurion Tamim Iqbal and his third-wicket partner Mushfiqur Rahim both departed.

Plunkett concedes Woakes’s longer-term absence is a big blow.

“Absolutely ... he’s a class player ... a massive player, one of the best in the world at the moment,” he said.

It presents a challenge, however, for others and perhaps Plunkett in particular.

At 32, he still possesses most of the pace and bounce of his youth, but has added an array of skilful variations.

As with his fellow Yorkshire seamer Ryan Sidebottom before him – in England’s 2010 ICC World Twenty20 campaign, their sole tournament victory to date in a global event – this summer’s Champions Trophy may prove the culmination of an admirably resilient career.

Plunkett will not be shying away from the task in front of him.

“That’s why you play,” he said.

“You don’t play to make the numbers up – you want to be the one that takes the wickets. That is what you get picked for.

“You do want to take it on and be that leader of the bowling attack ... I’m happy to take that on my shoulders.”

He takes confidence from his performance against Bangladesh.

“I don’t do too much ‘death’ bowling, so it was good to do that, bowl a few yorkers and show my skills,” added Plunkett.

“You get all the glory doing that, don’t you?

“You can go round the park, but it gives you the chance to pick up wickets.”

England’s attack will need to be adaptable, however – starting in their second Group A fixture against New Zealand in Cardiff on Tuesday.

“It is something we all work on, it is not like a set position that you just bowl through the middle,” said Plunkett.

“You have to work on your skills in case someone goes down and you need to bowl at the ‘death’.

“But I do enjoy it. It is a challenge, people playing reverse-sweeps and stuff, but it’s good fun when it goes your way.”

England’s win over Bangladesh came at an obvious cost with Woakes’s injury plus a less serious one for Yorkshire’s Joe Root, who was troubled by cramp during his match-winning century.

There were other issues too.

Root’s club-mate, leg-spinner Adil Rashid, was left out but England stuck with out-of-form opener Jason Roy, who went on to make only a single in front of his home crowd.

Roy’s opening partner Alex Hales concedes – despite their record stand of 256 against Sri Lanka last summer – they have not always clicked at the same time.

He is confident they will soon, though.

“Absolutely,” he said.

“Particularly in the first 18 months, our partnership blossomed really well.

“In international cricket you will always come across sticky patches like this.

“But we know we’ve done it in the past, and Jason has performed against the Indias, the Australias, the big teams – so everyone is confident.

“We want to try to make this partnership peak at the right time.

“We have two big games coming up now, and if we can string together some good partnerships we hope people will forget we’ve had our ups and downs.”