Liam Plunkett's second coming in Test cricket has been seven years in the making, and after impressing with the ball in his first series since being recalled, the Yorkshire seamer could possibly be ready to fill an important void for this England outfit.
Of course, Plunkett's capture of our Bowler of the Month award is partially due to a paucity of other standout performances on the Test stage in June, but the significance of his return shouldn't be underestimated.
Having lost confidence in his action while playing for Durham in 2012, it appeared that the 29-year-old was destined to remain on England's scrapheap, following a nine-Test stint between 2005 and 2007.
But a move to Headingley to join Yorkshire has reinvigorated the right-armer's career, seeing him rise into the nation's Test ranks once more.
With genuine pace and steep bounce, Plunkett's revival has also arrived at an opportune time, as England look for an answer to Australia's Mitchell Johnson after the team's dismantling at the hands of the devastating left-armer last winter.
Pleasingly, it appears that the hostile seamer will be used in a similarly explosive role, with short, high- energy spells already his staple alongside James Anderson and Stuart Broad in England's new-look side.
Performance Summary for June
|Liam Plunkett's Performance Summary for June|
|2/116, 0/39||Sri Lanka||Test||Lord's||June 12-16|
|5/64, 4/112||Sri Lanka||Test||Headingley||June 20-24|
Although he claimed just two wickets at Lord's, Plunkett put forward a brilliant performance at his new home ground at Headingley, unsettling the Sri Lankans in a nine-wicket haul that went unrewarded amid the malaise shown by his team-mates.
Plunkett's nine-wicket haul in the second Test against Sri Lanka at Headingley was, of course, his most impressive effort.
On an uncharacteristically placid Leeds wicket, the bruising right-armer extracted uncomfortable bounce for the visitors' batsmen, capturing a sterling 5/64 in the first innings to set up a strong lead for the home side.
After blowing through the defence of Dimuth Karunaratne, Plunkett removed Mahela Jayawardene and Lahiru Thirimanne in consecutive deliveries to rock Sri Lanka's batting line-up on an eventful first day.
Ensuring the tourists' innings didn't escape from England's grasp, Plunkett also picked up the scalps of Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep to record his best Test bowling figures.
And although his team's performance under Alastair Cook in Sri Lanka's second innings was abysmal, Plunkett remained England's most threatening option on a forgettable fourth day, claiming 4/112.
Indeed, it was the seamer's over that featured the wickets of Prasad and Dinesh Chandimal that briefly swung the game in the home team's favour, before Angelo Mathews—with help from England's captain and senior players—took the Test away from the hosts.
Outlook for July
|Liam Plunkett's Possible Schedule for July|
|India||Test||Trent Bridge||July 9-13|
|India||Test||The Rose Bowl||July 27-31|
After an impressive series against Sri Lanka, Plunkett will now set his sights on making life uncomfortable for the touring Indian party when England's five-Test series against MS Dhoni's team gets under way next week.
Fresh from enjoying success with his hostile approach against another subcontinental team, the Yorkshire speedster will look to exploit the inexperience of India's line-up on English shores.
Also enhancing his prospects will be the tourists' dire Test form away from home. Without a victory outside of India in three years, the visitors have regularly shown their inability to adapt to foreign conditions—a fact that was evident in India's disappointing two-Test series in New Zealand in February.
Possessing the pace and steep bounce that have typically unsettled Indian batsmen, Plunkett could further entrench his place in England's Test team with a string of impressive performances in July.
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