David Willey back in love with cricket and enjoying return to England prominence

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David Willey is revelling in the second chapter of his England career after rediscovering his lost love for the game.

Willey played a key all-round role in setting up Sunday’s Royal London Series decider against India, scoring a vital 41 with the bat and capping a tight bowling stint with the prize scalp of Virat Kohli as the hosts scored a 100-run win at Lord’s.

He is considered important enough to be kept on ahead of the concluding ODI at Emirates Old Trafford, rather than released to captain Yorkshire at Vitality Blast finals days, a situation that looked fanciful when he was dropped on the eve of the triumphant 2019 World Cup.

England levelled the series with victory at Lord's
England levelled the series with victory at Lord’s (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Willey had been named in the provisional 15-man squad for the tournament, only to be ruthlessly axed for the newly available Jofra Archer, and spent the next year on the outside as England celebrated their world champion status. But since regaining his spot in the Covid summer of 2020 he has found his smile again.

“I had a bit of a patch when I didn’t bowl as well, around the time of the World Cup, and I fell out of love with the game,” he admitted.

“But I’ve found my enjoyment and love again. When you have that, it makes you hungry to keep improving, expanding your game, developing as a player. If you stand still, you go backwards. I think I have continued to try to improve and my love for the game helps that.

“This is a great dressing room to be in, win or lose. Everyone enjoys the dressing room because it’s a great place to be and that’s reflected in performances over the years. It’s always fun to be a part of, the white ball for England, the way we play our cricket.”

At 32, Willey is well past his youthful tyro years and less prone to getting involved in on-field spats than he was in his early days.

He can still cause a stir, as he did earlier this summer with a punchy statement flagging his imminent departure from Yorkshire, but is primarily focused on what he can contribute in the middle.

“I am getting old, I just come out and enjoy my cricket, trying to do the best job I can,” he said.

In ODIs I am more experienced but trying to do the same job as when I first came in. At Lord’s it was about doing the simple things well and, as a collective, we did.

“A lot of the time in England we play on very good pitches, with scores of 300-plus and it’s hard being a bowler. But it’s important if there is a little bit of assistance we stand up, put the ball in the right area and get the most out of the pitch.”

England could name an unchanged side for the third game in a row as they look to hand Jos Buttler a first series win since taking over from Eoin Morgan as limited-overs captain. Willey’s Yorkshire team-mate Harry Brook and Lancashire pair Matt Parkinson and Phil Salt are all off to Edgbaston for Saturday’s finals day, but Surrey’s Sam Curran has been retained by England as a possible all-round option.

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