Livingstone finally feeling groovy at IPL

  • It’s been a while coming but at Punjab Kings this explosive batter and useful spinner is proving to be value for money.
Liam Livingstone.(ANI) PREMIUM
Liam Livingstone.(ANI)
Published on May 14, 2022 02:22 PM IST
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ByRutvick Mehta, Mumbai

Liam Livingstone has almost 4,500 T20 runs in 179 matches. He has a century for England in the shortest format, has notched up 851 runs and 55 sixes in Australia’s Big Bash League and was The Hundred’s leading scorer by over 100 runs last year and hit 10 sixes in a single game.

Also read: Livingstone, Bairstow pummel RCB bowlers, keep Punjab in playoff hunt

One of the most destructive batters in English cricket, Livingstone’s reputation has steadily grown around the globe in international and franchise cricket over the past few years. The tall player from Lancashire though had yet to translate that into the biggest T20 tournament in the world, the Indian Premier League (IPL). Not any longer.

After a couple of quiet seasons, the 28-year-old has come into his own in this IPL, being the engine of Punjab Kings’ ultra-aggressive batting charge this season and showing just why the team shelled out Rs11.5 crore for him. Livingstone has amassed 385 runs in 12 matches so far—the sixth highest this season—striking at 180.75, which is also seventh best strike rate. Among the 20 batters with more than 300 runs, Livingstone has scored at the quickest clip by a stretch (Rahul Tripathi is next with a strike rate of 164.70).

Livingstone has hit four half-centuries, the joint-second highest after David Warner’s five. His latest, a 42-ball 70 against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Friday, ensured Punjab posted a total in excess of 200 to eventually win the match with ease and remain in the playoffs’ race.

It’s the kind of impact the Englishman has had in various T20 leagues of the world and domestic cricket in the last few years that also brought him back into England reckoning. The IPL-Livingstone party though has taken its time to get grooving.

Livingstone made his IPL debut for Rajasthan Royals (RR) in 2019, playing all of four matches towards the end of the season and scoring 70 runs including a 26-ball 44 while opening. He chose not to enter the 2020 auction to focus on first-class cricket in his quest to return to the England set-up. Back in RR for the 2021 season but without playing time, Livingstone left the tournament last April citing “bubble fatigue”. He returned for the second phase later in the year, got five games to score just 42.

By then, Livingstone had earned a recall in the England T20 team four years after making his debut in 2017. In only his third innings back, he cracked a 43-ball 103 at No. 5 against Pakistan in July last year for the fastest-ever T20I hundred by an Englishman. He played a couple of cameos in the T20 World Cup in the UAE apart from picking up six wickets with his useful spin. He’d also smashed 348 runs in nine innings in The Hundred last year with a tournament high 27 sixes.

Sure enough, Punjab Kings broke the bank at the mega auction to invest in Livingstone’s power-packed game that makes six-hitting look ridiculously easy against pace and spin. He’s struck 29 so far this season; although that limit-defying 117m whack against Gujarat Titans’ Mohammed Shami could well be counted as two.

Livingstone has finally made his presence felt in the IPL—with his sixes, runs and even his off and leg spin (that’s right, he can bowl either). What ought to be even more pleasing for Punjab is his adaptability that adds value to his volume and velocity of runs.

In his four half-century knocks, the middle-order batter has either walked in early in the powerplay and set the momentum or after the halfway stage to ride it home; like against RCB on Friday. Livingstone has been a consistent driving force at both ends of the innings.

“It's something I pride myself on,” Livingstone told the official broadcasters on Friday. “Wherever I bat, I go hard. I bat at the top for Lancashire. I guess having that skillset to be able to bat anywhere in the order is something that sets me up really well. Having the sort of knowledge of being able to bat in the powerplay but also having the skills to come in and hit from ball one at the death is something that I work really hard.

“I feel like I’m seeing the ball well at the moment and it’s nice to be able to put in performances that go a long way to winning your team the game. So it’s been nice to get a few runs and hopefully long may it continue.”

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Monday, June 27, 2022