International Cricket

England allrounder Liam Livingstone ‘enjoying playing cricket’ again after struggling with knee problem

Liam Livingstone has revealed that he has been playing through pain for the last 18 months due to a knee injury. It “drained” his enjoyment of the game and left him “in a pretty crap place” but he played “pain-free” during England’s T20I series against Pakistan thanks to an anti-inflammatory injection.

In 2022, Livingstone rushed back from an ankle injury to play for England at the T20 World Cup and was at the non-striker’s end when Ben Stokes hit the winning runs in the final. He injured his right knee while fielding on his Test debut in Pakistan shortly after, and has struggled for form and fitness ever since.

He scored 60 runs in six innings at the 50-over World Cup in India and averaged 15.75 across 18 franchise T20 innings at the start of this year, with a top score of 38 not out. He returned home early from the IPL to get his knee “sorted” and hopes that medical intervention has sorted the problem once and for all.

“It’s not been the most enjoyable 18 months of trying to play with a niggle,” he said after England’s seven-wicket win at The Oval on Thursday. “It kind of drains your spirit, drains your enjoyment of cricket. I was in a pretty crap place at the end of the IPL… thankfully, the injection seems to have worked and just being able to play cricket pain-free for the first time in two years is the exciting part for me. I feel like I’ve got a smile on my face again, and I’m enjoying playing cricket.”

Livingstone explained that he had “something underneath my kneecap that keeps catching” on the bone, but that the injection went “really well” and has relieved the pain. He said: “This series, I came in a lot happier, enjoying my cricket a little bit more – and being able to move my feet when I bat also really helps. I feel like I’ve got a smile on my face, and that’s all that really matters to me.”

As England’s designated finisher, Livingstone only faced three balls in their rain-interrupted series against Pakistan. While acknowledging the benefits of the squad spending the past two weeks together, he admitted: “It seemed like the series never got going, to be honest. I feel like we’ve just spent the whole time in a hotel room or on the bus.”

Livingstone’s middle-order role is volatile and fleeting: he has been to two T20 World Cups but faced only 44 balls in England’s 2022 triumph in Australia, and just 29 when they reached the semi-finals in the UAE the previous year. He acknowledged that once England arrive in the Caribbean, he will have to work hard in training to “find my rhythm”.

“The winter didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked, but it is what it is,” he said. “Everybody goes through a run in their career where they have a bit of a rut, so hopefully I’m on the other side of that. It may not be in the group stage – but hopefully when my opportunity comes, I can show that I’m in a bit better nick than what I was.

“It’s a different role for me. I’ve always batted No. 3, 4, 5, and even at the top of the order when I first came through. You’ve got to manage your expectations and realise that actually, when the time comes, I’m going to get an opportunity – at some time, at some point – to win a game of cricket for England. Hopefully when that time comes, I’m ready to take it.”

Given the limitations of his batting role, Livingstone’s biggest contribution in the Caribbean may come with the ball as one of England’s four spin options, along with Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Will Jacks. He underlined his value on Thursday night, combining legspin and offbreaks to take 2 for 17 from three overs – including a rare double-wicket maiden in the 15th.

“I love coming back to play for England because Jos [Buttler] and Motty [Matthew Mott] really trust my bowling, which not many people do in different competitions,” he said. “It’s a difficult role batting at No. 7: I faced three balls in this series and may not face a ball until we get out there and we’re 60 for 5, so I’ve got to try and contribute in a different way.

“[It’s about] being able to do that with the ball or whatever it is in the field. I’ve got to keep developing as a cricketer and certainly, being able to bowl is part of that. I guess that’s the cool thing about being able to contribute in all three facets of the game: whenever you’re called upon, you’ve got an opportunity.”

England left for Barbados on Friday morning ahead of their opening group-stage match against Scotland next Tuesday. “We feel like we’ve got all bases covered,” Livingstone said. “The group’s in a very good place. I think we’re in a much better place than what we were six months ago, which is pretty exciting for all of us… the boys are really looking forward to getting going.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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