Liam Plunkett has warned it is time for England to start playing like world-beaters again.
Plunkett, who faces an uncertain future with Yorkshire and will miss two one-day internationals against Sri Lanka to get married in October, will not be letting those issues distract him from beating Australia in Cardiff this weekend.
England managed that on Wednesday, to go 1-0 up in the five-match ODI series – but by key seamer Plunkett’s admission, were short of standards which have put them top of the International Cricket Council rankings and raised hopes they could win the World Cup for the first time next summer.
It was a scrappy performance as England won by just three wickets at The Oval, despite bowling depleted Australia out for 214.
For a team whose big-hitting batting line-up is their undoubted strength, there was nothing convincing about a chase which limped over the line.
Plunkett, who was dropped by Yorkshire this month following his return from the Indian Premier League, impressed with three for 42 in a bowling collective which showed significant improvement from the shock defeat against Scotland.
“We tied them down, and the spinners bowled really nicely,” he said. “We’d take that all the time.
“But absolutely, we agreed as a batting unit we should be able to finish that off.
“There were soft dismissals, and we’re looking to erase them. We need to show why we’re number one in the world.”
England’s opponents are in a vulnerable state, shorn of half their full-strength team through injury and former captain Steve Smith and combative opener David Warner’s year-long bans for their parts in the ball-tampering fiasco during the Test tour of South Africa two months ago.
That sorry saga has left them hostages to the treatment of partisan crowds eager to remind Australia of their misdemeanours. Plunkett is not sympathetic.
“I don’t feel sorry for them,” he said. “You’re going to get it – it’s part of sport.
“I’m sure it would be the same if someone on the England team had done that. You get plenty of stick when you go and play against Australia Down Under.”
After dismissing Australia’s top-scorer and his ex-Yorkshire team-mate Glenn Maxwell two days ago, Plunkett was happy to throw in a tidy ‘sledge’ of his own too.
“It was nice of him to hit a half-volley straight down someone’s throat. I enjoyed that,” he said.
Plunkett is able to clarify he should be available for the majority of England’s series in Sri Lanka – where the home board reversed the scheduling of Tests and ODIs after he had arranged a wedding date of October 13.
“The (Sri Lanka) board flipped it around, and I was so deep in the preparation,” he said of his marriage to American Emeleah Erb.
“I’m so excited and can’t wait for the day that I’m not going to change and ruin everything for her.”
He appears less well-disposed at present to his employers at Headingley – after being left out of the team following a Roses match, and subsequently holding fruitless talks over the possibility of extending his contract.
“I had one bad performance,” said the 33-year-old. “If they want to drop me on that… They said I wasn’t ready, that I looked under-cooked. I was disappointed, and I let them know.
“Obviously as you get a little bit older, you maybe think about your base salary coming down and you’re playing for incentives and stuff – but I didn’t really get offered anything.
“It gives me a right to speak to other counties, that option – and I’m looking to do that.”