Liam Livingstone is closer than ever to fulfilling his dream of playing Test cricket for England after his inclusion in the squad for this spring’s New Zealand tour.
The newly-appointed Lancashire captain made two T20 appearances against South Africa last summer to give him a first taste of international cricket after his impressive performances in the Specsavers County Championship and on the Lions tour of Sri Lanka.
But even as a batsman renowned for his hard-hitting and occasionally extravagant batting, Livingstone believes he is better-suited to the red-ball game – and reflecting on his selection at a crisp and cold Emirates Old Trafford today, the 24-year-old left no doubt about his desire to play Test cricket.
“The Twenty20 was a good experience for me, but my red-ball game is totally different,” Livingstone said.
“I’m a lot more assured with my red-ball game than I am in T20 cricket so I’ll definitely go into the environment with a lot more confidence in my ability to perform, which will help me. It will be nice to get in and around that and hopefully show what I can do.”
Inclusion in the squad for New Zealand is vindication for Livingstone’s decision to spend a second winter away with the Lions rather than exploring the range of short-term T20 stints now available through the English winter.
“I spoke to Andy Flower about this at the start of the winter,” he added. “My ultimate goal is to play Test cricket for England, and going to Australia with the Lions was the best way to give myself the best chance of doing that. I could have tried to play T20 cricket around the world, but I still don’t see that as the strongest part of my game. I wanted to work on different areas of my red-ball game, and I was able to do that for our first two weeks in Brisbane.”
The Lions training camp also gave Livingstone a close-up view of Ashes cricket in Australia – including attending the first day of the first Test at the ‘Gabba.
“To see the amount of interest out there, it was quite exciting,” he reflected. “People are saying that Test cricket’s becoming less important, but as players I don’t think that’s true at all. It’s still the toughest part of the game, and the format you get the most pleasure from succeeding in. T20 is great for the sport and it brings in the viewers. But you look at the Ashes and the full stadiums, there’s still a lot of interest in Test cricket, and as players it’s still what you want to play.”
Livingstone will spend the next week or so with Lancashire, looking ahead to the 2018 summer with his head coach Glen Chapple as they aim to go one better than last year when they finished second to Essex in the Championship table.
Then he and Chapple, who has been appointed fast-bowling coach to work alongside Flower with the Lions in the West Indies, will head for a short warm-weather camp at the Desert Springs Resort in Spain with a strong Lancashire presence, as Alex Davies, Saqib Mahmood and new signing Keaton Jennings are also in the squad.
Livingstone believes that for him and also Ben Foakes and Mason Crane, who have also been included in England’s squad for New Zealand, the chance to play four-day cricket against West Indies A will represent perfect preparation for the tour.
“Being picked for the squad is great, but I know there’s a lot more work to do to earn a place in the team,” said the Cumbrian, whose selection has gone down especially well in his home town of Barrow-in-Furness.
“That work carries on in Desert Springs and then the West Indies where hopefully I can score some runs and push my case for selection in New Zealand.
“Obviously the England team have had a tough Ashes, everyone knows that. But I’m sure everybody will be excited going into a new series, and I know it’s a very talented group of players. I’m just looking forward to getting in amongst it.”