The road to the highest level of any sport is never straightforward and England cricketer Liam Livingstone has encountered his fair share of hurdles this year in search of a T20 World Cup place.
Now, following a summer of batting fireworks, Livingstone has not only secured a spot in the squad for next month’s tournament in the United Arab Emirates and Oman but also seemingly made himself an undroppable player.
The Cumbrian, 28, has long had a flair for memorable moments. He grabbed headlines when scoring 350 runs from 138 balls for Nantwich in 2015, while at Perth Scorchers in last year’s Big Bash he went viral for receiving a trio of bouncers in a delicate area, sending commentators into fits of giggles.
Livingstone is a player of many talents, though: a right-handed batsman who occasionally bowls spin, the Lancashire man has amassed more than 3,000 first-class runs. His international T20 average is a modest 34.33, however, and does not do justice to his ability, as the opening match of England’s series against Pakistan in July proved.
T20 V PAKISTAN
The months leading up to the Pakistan series were unremarkable for Livingstone. He played some one-day internationals (ODIs) in India, a series England lost 2-1, and featured in a victorious T20 series at home to Sri Lanka. No stranger to the international set-up, having made his T20 debut in 2017, Livingstone struggled to get motoring in his return to the fold this year, at times looking over-eager to prove a point. He didn’t feature in the 3-2 T20 series loss against India and peaked with 29 not out against Sri Lanka.
That humdrum form disappeared at Trent Bridge in July, however, when he took to the crease in the first T20 match against Pakistan. Batting at five, Livingstone soon got his chance following poor spells from Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali. Lofting the bell left, right, over and beyond, Livingstone smashed a 42-ball century, the fastest ever for England.
He was a hero, the shining light in an underperforming T20 side. England went on to lose that day but very few were talking about a high quality Pakistan side. Lauded by the Trent Bridge faithful, Livingstone had announced himself as a contender for the World Cup. He had arrived, but had he peaked?
Just two days later, the batter achieved a comparatively low 38 in the second match, followed by just six in the third game. Livingstone was in danger of becoming one of those who shines so bright that the light goes out.
An unforgettable single innings score had got people watching, but Livingstone would need more than that if he were to cement his place on the plane to the World Cup. But then came The Hundred.
Live music, fire cannons, new rules and new graphics made The Hundred feel different, but it also provided a useful stage to give England T20 captain Eoin Morgan food for thought on selection.
Liam Livingstone was snapped up by Birmingham Phoenix in the draft, for his desired band cost of £125,000, and entered a team stacked with talent. Captained by England all-rounder Moeen, the Edgbaston-based side also boasted the likes of New Zealander Adam Milne, and Englishmen Chris Woakes and Tom Abell throughout the order.
Livingstone had expectations to shoulder by this point, his big-hitting performance for England leaving few in doubt of what he could do. He didn’t disappoint, hitting it out of the park – literally – and scoring 27 sixes during this summer’s competition.
The Hundred, for all its glitz and glamour, gave Livingstone the opportunity to prove his worth in pressure situations. The 28-year-old scored 348 runs across the competition, over 100 runs more than Southern Brave’s James Vince in second place. He had proven a resounding success.
On 9 September, England selected their preliminary squad for the World Cup, to be held in the UAE and Oman, and Livingstone was in. The Hundred campaign and his international T20 century had left Eoin Morgan with little choice.
Now increasingly undroppable, Liam Livingstone has overcome his modest start to the year to now be on the biggest stage in T20 cricket. England came second in the last edition of this competition, but with Livingstone’s determination with and without the bat, they have another weapon in their armoury to go one better this time around.