England’s Twenty20 squad must be one of the hardest in sport to break into but in one record-breaking innings Liam Livingstone has gone from maybe to must-pick for this autumn’s World Cup.
Acting head coach Paul Collingwood lauded his 42-ball hundred against Pakistan on Friday as ‘as exciting an innings as I’ve seen from any of our white-ball cricketers’.
It came in a losing cause and England must now win the final two matches, starting at Headingley on Sunday, to complete a full house of limited-overs series wins this summer. Yet from a personal perspective the timing could not have been better. These are the final fixtures ahead of the ICC’s September 18 deadline for a provisional 15 names for the October tournament in the UAE.
Liam Livingstone hit England’s fastest ever T20 century off just 42 balls against Pakistan
The breakthrough felt comparable to the one made by Kevin Pietersen with his three one-day hundreds in South Africa on the eve of the 2005 Ashes.
Livingstone, 27, called it ‘probably the best of my career’. Among the cyclone of sixes at Trent Bridge, it was easily overlooked that he had never passed 50 in an international.
But he has been the master of all trades in 2021. A top-order player with Lancashire and Perth Scorchers, he showed versatility to launch from ball one when walking to the crease with Eoin Morgan’s team three down inside five overs, much as he had done with batting cameos, spin to order and athletic fielding in the series against Sri Lanka.
Collingwood said: ‘It’s very hard not to pick a guy if he’s played like that.
Livingstone blasted England’s fastest 50 in T20, coming off just 17 balls with five huge sixes
‘It’s not just his power-hitting, it’s also what he gives with the ball. 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.
‘Under the serious pressure of needing 12 an over from the start, he’s shown he can really take it to the opposition.
‘It’s exciting to think how powerful that batting unit could be with someone like him in it. He’s adding something special.’
Jos Buttler will return from a calf injury, while Ben Stokes will be back for October’s main event.
Livingstone attributed the clean striking that saw him clear the ropes nine times in Nottingham to technical work done in Bristol with Collingwood and Marcus Trescothick, England’s batting coach.
Collingwood said: ‘T20 batting can be like a golf swing. We were just doing a bit of work on how far that front foot goes out, and getting the base a little bit (more solid).’