yorkshire pace bowler Liam Plunkett has set his sights on the West Indies batting line-up and is ready to “rough them up” with pace.
The 29-year-old England seamer is back in Test contention in the Caribbean after his comeback last summer was cut short by injury.
He managed 18 wickets in four Tests prior to that, playing a big part for an England side often criticised for going easy on the speed gun.
A minor ankle complaint during Yorkshire’s pre-season trip to Abu Dhabi proved to be nothing more than a brief setback and he is looking to make a name for himself in a part of the world that is famous for its quick men.
“I’m trying to be the fastest (bowler on the pitch). I train hard at it and I feel that’s why I stand out from the rest,” he said ahead of today’s two-day warm-up against a St Kitts & Nevis Invitation XI.
“I feel like I’m adaptable but you might need those little patches in the game – where it’s a bit dead and there’s good batters – to try and rough them up a bit.
“That’s why I’m in the team, because I do bowl fast.
“I’m not a bowler who runs up and just hits line and length all day, I want to do something, I want to ruffle batsmen up. If that’s what I’m asked to do, I’m happy to do that.”
With James Anderson and Stuart Broad likely to retain new ball duties for the first Test in Antigua on April 13, Plunkett is fighting for a place with Barbados-born Chris Jordan and the uncapped Mark Wood.
There is a case to be made for both his rivals, Jordan being more familiar with conditions in his homeland and Durham’s Wood an unknown quantity to the opposition, but Plunkett relishes the scrap.
“It’s a good unit, a good bunch of lads and we’re all working hard. There’s massive competition,” he said.
“It’s up to me to bowl well in practice and in the warm-up games and get the chance to play in the first Test.
“You don’t want to just get in easily. You want to feel like you’ve earned your place and outbowled the other guys. You want to be the best bowler.
“Last summer, I felt the best I had in my career, I felt good with the ball, I felt confident.
“I felt I was in a situation where I could win games for England. It didn’t quite happen but I bowled nicely.
“Then I got the injury, went away this winter with the Lions and I feel good again. I got some wickets and some good rhythm so it would be good to play that first Test.”
England plan to play a standard XI man fixture today, with their selection likely to provide a clear insight into their preferred Test side.
That could mean a start for Jonathan Trott whom England Test captain Alastair Cook feared his international career was over 18 months ago, but who feels he is now ready to face the “pressure cooker” once again.
Trott dramatically left the 2013-14 Ashes trip after just one match at the Gabba having struggled with what was initially labelled a “stress-related condition” and later diagnosed as situational anxiety.
Cook was concerned that would be the end of his Three Lions days but has watched the 33-year-old rebuild his career with typical focus and determination, first with Warwickshire then during a productive winter tour with England Lions.
The pair are heavy favourites to open the batting together in the West Indies, starting today.
Uncapped Yorkshireman Adam Lyth is the other opener on tour but Trott appears to have first claim after batting alongside the captain in Saturday’s practice session at Warner Park.
“He was in a bad place in Brisbane and at the time I would have been surprised that he’d come back, but it’s a huge credit to the work he’s done off the field and the effort he’s put in,” said Cook.
“That obviously shows his desire to come back to play for England.
“He has almost demanded selection with the runs he has scored for Warwickshire and it’s great for me to see him back in an England shirt. He’s a great guy and if he gets his chance he’ll be desperate to do well.”
Cook accepted there was no guarantee over how Trott would react to the glare of the international game, which remains several notches beyond anything he will have experienced on the county or Lions circuit.
But with a CV boasting 49 Tests, 3,763 runs and nine centuries, Cook is delighted to have him back on board and nudging the selectors for a recall.
“I am (confident), but you don’t know 100 per cent until he’s put out in the environment – that is always unknown,” he said.