Livingstone in T20 World Cup frame after stunning century

Published July 18, 2021
England's Liam Livingstone in action against Pakistan. — Reuters/File
England's Liam Livingstone in action against Pakistan. — Reuters/File

LEEDS: Liam Livingstone could yet force his way into England’s first-choice XI at this year’s Twenty20 World Cup after his stunning century against Pakistan, stand-in head coach Paul Collingwood said on Saturday.

Livingstone hit England’s quickest T20 hundred, off just 42 balls, including nine sixes, in a 31-run defeat by Pakistan at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Friday.

His previous highest score in four T20 International innings was 29 not out but his tour de force at Trent Bridge may make the 27-year-old Livingstone tough to ignore at the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in October.

He now has two more chances to impress in their ongoing three-match T20 series against Pakistan that continues at Headingley in Leeds on Sunday before finishing at Manchester’s Old Trafford — Livingstone’s Lancashire home ground — on Tuesday.

“He’s put his hand up, it’s as simple as that,” Collingwood told reporters in Leeds.

“You can’t do any more than what he’s done,” added the former England all-rounder, in charge of the squad while head coach Chris Silverwood takes a break. “He’s got two more opportunities over the next two games. It’s very hard not to pick a guy if he’s played like that.

“I think the innings he played is as exciting as we’ve seen in an English shirt for some time.”

Collingwood, England’s captain when they won the 2010 World Twenty20 with a team featuring gifted batsman Kevin Pietersen, was in no doubt of the calibre of Livingstone’s century — and what it might mean for an already strong England white-ball top order.

“You think you’ve got a real powerful unit there and then Liam does something like that,” Collingwood said. “It’s adding something special. That is a scary batting line-up.”

For all Livingstone’s natural talent, Friday’s innings was about more than ‘slogging’ as Collingwood acknowledged.

“It’s not just a God-given gift that he’s got, he puts a lot of hard work and effort into it,” he said. “He’s very thoughtful and analyses quite a lot.

“As much as people might think that he just stands there and swings, there’s a lot of thought that goes into his game, there’s a lot of skill that goes in and hard work as well.

“And it’s not just his power-hitting; it’s also what he gives with the ball. He’s very much a modern T20 cricketer.

“He can bowl leg-spin and off-spin, depending on whether he’s bowling against right or left-handed batsmen, and he’s an exceptional fielder. As an overall package, these are the kind of players that you want to draw upon.”

Despite Livingston’s heroics, Pakistan went 1-0 up in the series, with England bowled out for 201 after player-of-the-match Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan took three wickets apiece.

“Everyone took part in this win,” said skipper Babar Azam following Pakistan’s first victory of the tour after a 3-0 reverse in the preceding One-day International series. “After mine and [Mohammad] Rizwan’s partnership all the batsmen came and performed their roles and we got a brilliant total.

“We want to carry on the momentum on to the next game and take the positives from the first match,” Babar added.

Meanwhile, Collingwood confirmed Jos Buttler would return to the side at Headingley following a calf injury to reclaim his opening spot from Dawid Malan.

But whether England will recall Adil Rashid on his Yorkshire home ground, after rival leg-spinner Matt Parkinson bowled four wicketless overs for a costly 47 runs on Friday, remains uncertain.

“It’s a balance,” said Collingwood. “Of course Adil will come back into the frame, but it’s still important to see what Parky [Parkinson] can do.”

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2021

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