Liam Livingstone says he is determined to contribute to England’s World Cup defence as a genuine wicket-taking threat, having grown “fed up” of opposition batters milking his spin.
Livingstone’s return to batting form in Friday’s First ODI in Cardiff was an encouraging note for England in the midst of a comprehensive eight-wicket defeat to New Zealand, the all-rounder putting a lean summer behind him with an explosive half-century.
However, his bowling could prove just as important to Jos Buttler’s side in India this autumn, with conditions expected to favour spin and England needing to balance their side given Ben Stokes will play as a specialist batter due to his ongoing knee troubles.
“I feel like I work on my bowling to become a genuine all-rounder, there for when Jos needs me, or when he doesn’t need me,” Livingstone said. “I just keep working as hard as I can on that, and enjoying the challenge of bowling.
“It doesn’t come as naturally to me as batting does but it was nice that the first few overs came out really well.”
Operating as England’s sixth bowler, Livingstone’s primary task in 50-over cricket has been to get through a few tight overs in the middle of opposition innings, allowing Buttler to keep his frontline options open towards the back-end. So far in a short ODI career of 13 matches, he has just six wickets, having only been used as a bowler in eight of those games.
At Sophia Gardens, however, he was called upon to take a more prominent role after lead spinner Adil Rashid was forced off the field to be treated for cramp and then, as a result, not allowed to bowl until late in the innings on his return.
Livingstone’s 7.4 overs was the second-most he has bowled in ODI cricket, fewer only than the eight he sent down in a mauling of the Netherlands last summer, and while he went wicketless for 47 runs in that spell, says tweaks to his action mean he is improving all the time.
“It sounds weird but I’m in more of a development phase with my bowling,” he explained. “[Trying] to get a bit more on it, get a bit better at it, try and be more of a threat.
“I only made the change about three weeks ago so hopefully I’ll keep getting better and better.
“I was just fed up of being someone who bowls flat into the pitch and gets milked. I’d prefer to be a threat and take wickets. I’ve had chats with all my coaches wherever I’ve been over the last few weeks and I’m just trying to evolve as a bowler which will ultimately make me a better cricketer.”
Livingstone endured an injury-disrupted winter, struggling with ankle and knee problems, and has taken time to get up to speed this summer, making only 100 runs in six innings during the Hundred.
While his all-round ability means Livingstone has long looked a certainty to travel to India next month, his struggle for form with the bat has not gone unnoticed in the ongoing debate over who might make way should England bring Harry Brook into their squad late on.
A 39-ball half-century in Cardiff will have gone some way to silencing any doubts, though, Livingstone serving a reminder of his finishing power as he hit Kyle Jamieson for three successive sixes to steer England towards what, at the halfway stage, looked a competitive total of 291 for six.
“I’ve just been crying out for a bit of time in the middle, and I felt like I had a bit more time in the middle today,” he added. “As it went on, I felt like I was moving better, I was seeing the ball better, and ultimately I know when I’m at my best I can be a massive asset to this team.
“So, it’s just making sure over the next two or three weeks that hopefully when we go to India ,I’m back where I want to be and ultimately I think if I’m at my very best when we go to India it’s probably going to help the team.”