'I walk out to a guy who’s bowling 90 miles an hour' - Liam Plunkett recalls his 'frightening' experience of facing Shoaib Akhtar

‘I walk out to a guy who’s bowling 90 miles an hour’ – Liam Plunkett recalls his ‘frightening’ experience of facing Shoaib Akhtar

Plunkett had already played with Akhtar for Durham but the Pakistan speedster ensured that their friendship doesn't come between their on-field expeditions.

Liam Plunkett and Shoaib Akhtar
Liam Plunkett and Shoaib Akhtar. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar, in his prime, was regarded as one of the most lethal bowlers in the international circuit. The ‘Rawalpindi Express’ used to bowl over 90 miles an hour during those times and was a feared name in many batting camps.

Akhtar decimated many batting forces with his bizarre pace as he went on to scalp over 400 international wickets for Pakistan. The speedster’s reputation of being a fiery bowler was evident many a time when batsmen used to fear while taking guard against him.

England pacer, in an interview with The Broken Trophy podcast, also revealed his ‘frightening’ experience of facing Akhtar. Plunkett had already played with Akhtar for Durham but the Pakistan speedster ensured that their friendship doesn’t come between their on-field expeditions. Plunkett faced Akhtar on his Test debut against Pakistan in Lahore.

“Frightening stuff,” Plunkett said of watching Shoaib bowl. “In county cricket, I was first-change to Shoaib and Harmy. I was at slip for Harmy and leg-slip for Shoaib. I faced Shoaib Akhtar in my first ever Test match. Because I played with Durham before that, I was marking my run-up before the Test and he just smiled and said ‘I’m gonna kill you’ and laughed.”

I remember it like it was yesterday: Liam Plunkett

Plunkett recalled coming out in the middle to face Akhtar who was bowling over 90 miles an hour. “I remember it like it was yesterday because I had my bat, at that time – you think [now] these bats are so thick and stuff – but it was Kashmir willow, it was real thin,” he said.

“And I was sat ready to bat, I was next in, and the TV screen’s right there, so you can see it’s like 96, 97, 96 [miles per hour]. Ashley Giles’ stumps get taken out, and I walk out to a guy who’s bowling 90 miles an hour,” he added.

Former England international Paul Collingwood, who was batting alongside Plunkett at that time, wasn’t much of a help to the Test debutant. Collingwood couldn’t relieve Plunkett’s fear of facing Akhtar’s pace. Plunkett battled it out in the middle and stitched nine runs from 51 deliveries, before getting out off Mohammad Sami.

“I don’t know how much Colly was on, but he was batting nicely, and often in county cricket when you go out there, ‘Is he bowling quick?’ and generally it’s ‘Oh yeah but it’s skiddy and that but you’re alright’, and Colly was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s f**kin’ rapid mate’,” recalled Plunkett.