Archer and Wood’s ‘extra edge’ excites England’s Livingstone – Sport

LONDON: England all-rounder Liam Livingstone believes the “extra edge” provided by fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Mark Wood will bolster the side’s chance when they begin their T20 World Cup defence in Barbados next week.

The two out-and-out quicks were reunited for the first time in The Oval on Thursday, with both Archer and Wood playing their part as England won by seven wickets to seal a 2-0 T20 series victory over Pakistan.

Archer made the key breakthrough to dismiss in-form Pakistan captain Babar Azam for 36, sparking a collapse that saw the tourists slump from 59-0 to 157 all out.

And Wood, timed at a rapid 96 mph (154 kph) in his first spell, returned to produce two searing bouncers that captured the wickets of Azam Khan and Naseem Shah.

Spin-bowling all-rounder Livingstone struck twice in an over before England’s top order spent time in the middle, with captain Jos Buttler (39) and Phil Salt (45) looking in especially fine touch.

“A 2-0 victory going into the World Cup is great,” said Livingstone after England won the only two matches of a four-game series where any cricket was possible following washouts in Leeds and Cardiff.

“I think what was better was what we actually got out of that, especially having Jof and Woody gives us that sort of extra edge that we haven’t had before, which is pretty cool.”

Injuries have blighted the careers of both Archer and Wood, but the 30-year-old Livingstone added: “Any team that has them, before you even start the game you feel like you’re one step ahead.

“We know pace can work one of two ways: it can get you wickets and it can go for runs. They’re not always just going to blow teams away but I think having those two is a pretty big weapon and CJ [Chris Jordan] has been bowling beautifully as well.”

England will hope their renewed confidence is justified following a miserable defence of their 50-over World Cup title in India last year, which led to questions being raised over the positions of skipper Buttler and white-ball coach Matthew Mott.

But the England hierarchy kept faith with the duo, who had some credit in the bank after steering the team to glory at the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, with Livingstone insisting: “I think we’re in a much better place than we were six months ago, which is pretty exciting for all of us.”

Livingstone, meanwhile, said he was finally free of pain after struggling with a longstanding knee injury.

“It’s not been the most enjoyable 18 months of trying to play with a niggle,” he said.

“It kind of drains your spirit, drains your enjoyment of cricket,” added Livingstone, who revealed he had been in low spirits at at the end of the Indian Premier League.

But an injection appears to have done the trick for his knee and revived Livingstone’s morale.

“It’s much better,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a smile on my face and that’s all that really matters to me.”

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2024

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