Liam Livingstone in line to stake England claim in final T20 World Cup warm-up

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Liam Livingstone could edge out Harry Brook in England’s T20 World Cup opener against Afghanistan next weekend if the all-rounder can prove his fitness in their final warm-up.

England take on Pakistan in Brisbane on Monday evening, with Livingstone expected to make a comeback from an ankle injury which has sidelined him since late August.

If he is at 100 per cent, Livingstone’s knowledge of Australian conditions after two seasons with Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League may give him the edge over Brook in England’s World Cup middle order.

Another selection dilemma was settled by past experience in Australia, with Jos Buttler revealing Alex Hales being a prolific run-scorer in the BBL meant he was preferred to open ahead of Phil Salt.

While Brook was a standout performer in England’s seven-match T20 series against Pakistan recently, his record in Australia – albeit from a very small sample size – is modest with 57 runs in nine innings.

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Also counting in Livingstone’s favour is his handy spin bowling – he is able to turn the ball both ways – and a terrific strike-rate of 176.92 against Afghanistan talisman Rashid Khan in all T20 fixtures.

Both Livingstone and Brook may yet feature in Perth next Saturday but it seems they are vying for just one spot, with England in recent months preferring the extra frontline bowling option and Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran likely to feature at four, six and seven in the batting order respectively.

England limited-overs head coach Matthew Mott has indicated they will adopt a horses for courses approach to selection, having juggled their options in both series wins over Pakistan and Australia.

After a tough summer in which England were unable to win a limited-overs series against India or South Africa, left-armer David Willey believes confidence is now thriving following an upturn in results.

“It’s a great dressing room to be a part of,” Willey said. “As a collective we’re in a great place and the good thing is it’s healthy competition, everybody wants each other to do well.

“The environment’s great, what Motty and Jos have put together and the way we’re going about our business is brilliant. We’re back playing good cricket.

“Obviously we weren’t very good in the summer back home but we’ve had a fair bit of cricket for the lads to find the form, so I think everyone’s in a pretty good space.”

England’s outing at the Gabba is not an official T20 – they can only play 11 batters although all their bowlers might be rotated – and is widely viewed as merely an International Cricket Council obligation.

However, given England have a cross-country flight to Perth on Tuesday, the game against Pakistan appears an unnecessary complication, with Willey adding: “We could do without it to be honest.”

Willey is an outside bet to play against Afghanistan but he sees the bigger picture, pleased to be back in the fold for this World Cup and last year’s edition after being the unfortunate fast bowler to make way for Jofra Archer ahead of England’s historic 50-over success on home soil three years ago.

“You want to be playing in that first XI,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t our mindset but anything can happen in these competitions and I’m sure there will be opportunities.

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“Ultimately we want to win a World Cup and whoever takes the field the lads will be right behind them. It would be pretty magical to win this one having missed out in 2019.

“When you think you might be finished (with England) I came back and said ‘all I want to do is enjoy every game I play’ and I don’t know if that’s taken the pressure off me or anything but whenever I take to the field now I play every game as if it’s going to be my last.”

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