Liam Livingstone is England’s best hope to step into Ben Stokes’ ODI shoes but must end frustrating streak

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Liam Livingstone in ODI action for England  (Action Images via Reuters)
Liam Livingstone in ODI action for England (Action Images via Reuters)

As one Cumbrian all-rounder, Ben Stokes, takes his leave from ODI cricket, England need more from their other Cumbrian all-rounder, Liam Livingstone.

They are not identical players – seamer versus spinner – but Livingstone offers plenty as Stokes’ replacement. He is a hard-hitting batter, bowls handy overs (and spin might be more useful at a World Cup in India), he is superb in the field and, like Stokes, he brings a bit of snarl and swagger.

The trouble is that, as a batter in his format, Livingstone lacks Stokes’ all-round game and maturity. England’s white-ball batting has been frustrating this home summer, especially in ODIs, where they have been bowled out in all four matches.

The top order has struggled, with the top four sharing five ducks. No one averages more than Jonny Bairstow’s 27. Phil Salt, who was excellent opening in the Netherlands, looks set to come in for Stokes in the second ODI against South Africa on Friday.

Livingstone has perhaps been the most frustrating of the lot. England’s collapse brought him to the crease in the powerplay in the first ODI against India, and he was a sitting duck who made a duck (just as he did in the first T20). Since, he has got in, then out; 33 from 33, 27 from 31, then 10 from 14 on Tuesday. On the first two occasions, he could not resist another big shot once set. On the third, he was just swinging from the hip.

Livingstone will probably shrug, smile and say “that’s the way I play”. He would be right, to an extent. He has made his name as a master-biffer in T20, a brutal boundary-blaster.

But there is a little more nuance to 50-over cricket, especially this summer. Joe Root made a revealing comment on Tuesday, saying he would rather face this year’s red Dukes than the white Kookaburra, with their usual swing threat inverted. England’s top-order struggles have exposed Livingstone early, but he has failed to play the situation. He is struggling to construct an innings.

That might be because he exists almost entirely on a diet of T20 cricket. He made his ODI debut in March 2021, but has not played a non-international 50-over game since 12 May 2019. While he had a decent body of 50-over work before then (including 28 matches in the England system for the Lions or the North), he now has no opportunity to hone his method away from the international spotlight.

These are already costs of the ECB’s wrongheaded decision to play the Royal London Cup under the Hundred, depriving the competition of its best players, and depriving the best players of the competition.

For comparison, since 12 May 2019, Livingstone has played 125 T20s. That is where he gets his practice and hones his method.

England need Livingstone to work it out, because one of he or Moeen Ali needs to be a consistent run scorer if this side is to function. Otherwise England will have to think again about how they structure the team. Others, like Will Jacks, are banging on the door. For Livingstone, back at his home ground, tomorrow would be a fine time to remind us of his class.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting