Liam Livingstone’s three mega sixes off a Kyle Jamieson over provided the fireworks in an otherwise disappointing performance for England in their first one-day international against New Zealand in Cardiff on Friday – a crushing eight-wicket defeat with 26 balls remaining.
It has been a good run for Livingstone, whose last year has been marred by injuries after he injured his ankle trying to avoid a puddle last August and then damaged his right knee on his Test debut in Rawalpindi.
“I had two pretty serious injuries,” he said ahead of Sunday’s ODI in Southampton. “I’ve tried to play as much cricket as possible – I wasn’t always fully fit – and I feel like I’m finally doing my best again. Hopefully these games will help me get closer to that goal.
“Cricket over 50 is a different animal in your body. T20 and the hundred seem to fly by, so 50-over cricket is a little different. My legs are a lot more tired than usual. I just need to be able to play 50 overs again and I think today is a big step for me.
“I just cried for a while in the middle… and as it went on I felt like I was moving better and seeing the ball better. Ultimately, I know that when I’m at my best, I can be a great asset to this team. So over the next two to three weeks I just have to make sure that hopefully I’m back to where I want to be when we go to India.”
The four-match series against New Zealand is a final flex of muscle before the two teams – the 2019 champions and the 2019 runners-up – meet in the first match of the 2023 World Cup in Ahmedabad on October 5. It is important for both sides to shake off some rust, as the format may have finally developed a period of weakness in recent years. Between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, England played 88 ODIs; Between 2019 and 2023 the number will have more than halved to 43.
Before Friday, neither Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, the returning Ben Stokes nor Livingstone himself had played an ODI since July 2022. And the domestic One-Day Cup has been sidelined since the introduction of the Hundred, running alongside it but in its shadow.
Livingstone is one of those tipped as potentially vulnerable to Harry Brook’s move into the World Cup squad, but he appears phlegmatic.
“I take it day by day. I spent six months in the gym working on my ankle. I’m just enjoying being able to play again. Every day you play for England is a very proud day, so I don’t look too far ahead. Whatever happens in India, happens in India and being able to wake up every morning and be able to put on an England jersey is very special. And it would be foolish of me to look beyond that.”
As well as Livingstone’s striking ability, it is his ability with the ball and manipulating it in both directions that gives him added value to his captain Jos Buttler. He had a good run in Cardiff after Adil Rashid temporarily left the pitch with cramps – watched from the England balcony by Andrew Flintoff, who was seen in public for the first time since his accident while filming Top Gear. However, for Livingstone, his bowling is still a work in progress.
“I feel like I (need to) work on my bowling to become a real all-rounder who will be there when Jos needs me or when he doesn’t need me… It doesn’t come as naturally to me as batting, but it is like that It was nice that the first few overs went really well.
“It sounds strange, but I’m in more of a developmental phase with my bowling – trying a little bit more, getting a little better at it, trying to be more of a threat than just someone who just bowls fast.”
“I only made the change about three weeks ago and I’m hoping I’m getting better and better. It’s a technical thing that I worked on to give the ball a little more shape. I was just tired of being someone who throws flat on the field and gets milked.”