Liam Plunkett believes this England side are “a different animal” to their predecessors and “can beat anyone in the world” if they play well.
Plunkett made his international debut in 2005 and played his first World Cup match in 2007, but admits to have never previously been part of a side who he thought could win the tournament.
“For me, being involved in England squads of the past, I never expected to win a World Cup,” Plunkett said. “We had amazing players but I never thought we’d win it. I played in teams where you didn’t expect to win and the public didn’t expect you to win.
“But with this squad the public sort of expect us to win games and series now. We’ve played well over the last four years, we’ve been ranked No. 1 and we’re feeling in a good place. We’ve made cricket exciting again and we’ve got people watching it.
To him, Thursday’s World Cup semi-final against Australia is the “biggest game of my career” and could prove “huge for English cricket.” And while Plunkett has great respect for an Australian side he refers to as “a great team” filled with “great players,” he feels the current England side offer far sterner opposition from previous World Cup campaigns.
“Australia are a great team,” he said. “They have great players and they have experience. They’ve been there and done it before. But we’re a different sort of animal compared to our last team. And we feel on our day if we play some good cricket we can beat anyone in the world.
“This journey we’ve been on with this group of boys now comes down to this semi-final. It would be nice to finish this four-year cycle by winning the World Cup. Playing for your country is massive and if you can go ahead and win this game and win the final, it’s huge for English cricket. I don’t think I’ll play another World Cup, so individually I think it is the biggest game of my career.”
Although Australia defeated England by 64 runs in the group stages of the tournament, Plunkett – who wasn’t selected for that match – feels that result came at a time when the team “went into our shell a bit” after dwelling on previously disappointing results. Despite the much-improved performances against India and New Zealand, he still feels there is more to come from the side.
“We went away from [playing] our [style of] cricket,” he said. “We like to be positive but not reckless and we went away from our positive brand of cricket and went into our shell a little bit. We know we’re better than that. We want to attack in a positive way without being reckless and I think that’s how we’ve been for the last however many years.
“When we have been beaten [in the past], we’ve not taken it lightly but we have put a line under it and gone on to the next game. But after getting beaten by Pakistan and Sri Lanka we dwelt on it a little bit rather than just forgetting about it and moving on. We can improve that by playing our positive brand of cricket.
“There was a point against New Zealand when we got held back in the middle overs and we thought we could have made 370. They’re allowed to bowl well – which they did – but we feel we could have kicked on from there. We could have got 360-370 against both New Zealand and India.”
The entire England squad reported fit for training on Tuesday. They tried to replicate the angle of a couple of Australia bowlers – Mitchell Starc, in particular – would pose. The batsmen were given a thorough work out against left-armers Donovan Miller (a coach on the Essex staff who has a powerful, left-arm throw and who has been with the England squad on and off throughout the tournament) and Ant Botha (another with a powerful left-arm throw who now coaches at Nottinghamshire).
As things stand, it appears England will be unchanged for Thursday’s game, which means Plunkett is set to keep his place and Moeen Ali will again miss out.