Plunkett hoping for fast return to England fold

LIAM PLUNKETT insists that he is ready to step straight back into the England Test team after his international comeback was curtailed by injury.

Liam Plunkett, seen in action for England last summer.

The Yorkshire fast bowler made a successful return to the Test side last summer after seven years in the international wilderness.

Plunkett played two games against Sri Lanka and two games against India before his season was abruptly ended by an ankle problem in late July.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But after a productive winter with England Lions, for whom he was the leading wicket-taker on their tour to South Africa, Plunkett is back to full fitness and ready to continue from where he left off if chosen for next month’s Test tour to the West Indies.

“I’m definitely raring to go,” said Plunkett, who is desperate to help put a smile back on the face of English cricket after the national team were eliminated from the World Cup on Monday.

“Hopefully, I’m in the selectors’ minds and I’m confident that, if I do get back in, I’ll do well.

“Last year was one of the best years I’ve had for a long time, getting back into the England side and doing well for Yorkshire, and it was a shame that I got injured and missed the latter part of the year.

“But what’s gone is gone and I feel in good spirits and that I’ve proved myself at the highest level.”

Plunkett, who turns 30 next month, returned to Test duty on the back of some stirring early-season performances for Yorkshire, which helped lay the platform for a Championship-winning year.

He took two wickets against Sri Lanka at Lord’s on his first Test appearance since 2007 and followed up with nine in the match against the same opponents on his home ground of Headingley, including a Test-best 5-64 in the first innings.

Plunkett then took three wickets against India in the Test at Trent Bridge and four against the same opponents in the game at Lord’s before his injury stopped him in his tracks.

Now he hopes his successful Lions trip will help him to win an immediate Test return when England head to the Caribbean for a three-match series starting on April 13.

“My aim during the winter was to lead the attack in South Africa and I felt I did well against some very good players,” added Plunkett, who captured 14 wickets in all games on the tour at an average of 24.

“At the start of the tour, I didn’t feel as though I was bowling as quick as I wanted, but I managed to get wickets and I thought I bowled nicely.

“The pace clicked in as I bowled more overs as I hadn’t played for five months.

“I feel in great condition now and that I’m getting to know my game more and more.”

Plunkett – who made his Test debut against Pakistan in November 2005 – prides himself on his pace and physical fitness.

Indeed, his speed was one of the most striking aspects of the last English season; the former Durham man consistently achieved 90 mph-plus from a powerful physique, while also displaying commendable control.

“I want to be one of the fastest in the world as a bowler and you don’t get that way by being lazy physically,” said Plunkett, who took 24 Championship wickets last summer at 24.83.

“I pride myself on my fitness, I work hard – I’ve always done that, especially as I’ve got a bit older.

“I think I can improve my speed but you’ve got to bowl overs, got to get a rhythm.

“I can’t just turn up and bowl 94 mph, or whatever, from the get-go.”

Plunkett flies out with the Yorkshire squad tomorrow to Abu Dhabi for the club’s pre-season tour, but it remains to be seen how much county cricket he will play this year due to international commitments.

After the West Indies trip, England play two Tests at home to New Zealand before another eagerly-awaited Ashes series during a demanding run of 17 Tests in less than a year.

Plunkett – who could be joined in the West Indies by county colleagues such as Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid – believes Yorkshire are poised for another successful summer regardless of any England call-ups.

The county champions are seeking to defend their title and also to win some one-day silverware after some underwhelming performances in the game’s shortest forms.

“There’s no reason whatsoever why we can’t win the Championship again,” stated Plunkett.

“There are some strong teams around, though, and we need to start well, and it will be interesting to see who we’re missing at the start of the season and who’s going to be on that tour to the West Indies.

“But I think we can do well and I also think that we can win a one-day trophy this year too; why not?

“We’ve made some great signings with the likes of Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, and you don’t sign those kind of players to come third or fourth.”

Plunkett believes it is an exciting time to be playing for England as well as Yorkshire.

“There’s pressure on England to perform now after the World Cup but there’s a very exciting year of Test cricket ahead,” he added.

“I’d love to be a part of that because playing for England is still the biggest goal.”