LIAM PLUNKETT has warned Australia England are a ‘different sort of animal’ to their predecessors.
The Ashes rivals meet in a hotly-anticipated World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston tomorrow with Australia aiming to stay on track for a sixth title while England continue to pursue a first.
In terms of tournament experience, the away side hold all the cards, as well as victories in the last four World Cup matches between the teams, but Plunkett (above) says times have changed and the old enemy do not hold the same sway over England’s current generation.
‘They’ve been there and done it before but not against this bunch of players,’ said the Surrey seamer. ‘We’re a different sort of animal compared to our last teams. We’ve played well for the past four years, we’re ranked No.1 [going into the tournament] and we feel in a good place. We feel on our day we can beat anyone in the world.’
Plunkett is the elder statesman of the current squad, making his international bow as far back as 2005 and earning his only previous taste of World Cup cricket 12 years ago in West Indies.
He has had a front-row seat as England’s one-day cricket has evolved under captain Eoin Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss and has never known a better mood in the team camp.
‘We had amazing players [previously] but I never thought we’d win a World Cup,’ he added.
‘We’ve made it exciting again. I’ve played in teams where we didn’t expect to win. With this squad the public expect us to win games and win series. It would be nice to finish this four-year cycle. This journey we’ve been on, with this group of boys, it comes down to this.’
At 34, Plunkett is unlikely to see service in four years’ time when the tournament heads to India, meaning the next few days represent the grandest stage of his career.
‘I think so,’ he agreed. ‘I don’t think I’ll play another World Cup so for me personally, it’s the biggest.’
Beating Australia would mean most, says fired-up Ben
ALL-ROUNDER Ben Stokes is treating England’s World Cup semi-final against Australia as the most important match of his career.
Asked if tomorrow’s game was the biggest he has experienced, Stokes, who has played for his country on 166 occasions across all formats, said: ‘Yes, to date. Definitely. It’s a massive occasion for us as players and as a nation. Playing against Australia is a big occasion — in any sport.
‘The rivalry goes way back and we have the Ashes this summer too. Beating them is that touch better than any other team.’
Stokes (above) added: ‘I’ve had a few days off and got out of the bubble but when you come back to the team you get those butterflies.’