Liam Livingstone is eyeing “genuine all-rounder” status and does not have to look far for inspiration after admitting he feels galvanised by Andrew Flintoff linking up with England.
Flintoff, whose displays with bat and ball in the seminal 2005 Ashes triumph saw him become a national treasure, was back in the public eye on Friday for the first time since being hospitalised with facial injuries and broken ribs after his Top Gear crash last December.
He has unofficially joined England’s backroom team in an unpaid capacity for four ODIs against New Zealand this month, conducting fielding drills ahead of the Black Caps’ eight-wicket win in Cardiff.
The 45-year-old was also seen on the home dressing room balcony wearing a bucket hat popularised by England’s Test side during this summer’s Ashes, and his sheer presences greatly enthuses Livingstone.
The pair played together in two T20s for Lancashire’s Second XI during Flintoff’s short-lived comeback in 2014 and the wisdom he can pass on is something Livingstone wants to tap into in the next week.
“It’s incredible to have him,” Livingstone said. “He’s obviously been one of my heroes growing up. To have someone of his experience lingering around the dressing room is great for all the lads.
“When you see someone like Fred around, it’s always good to chat. Especially while you’re batting: there’s three and a half hours to pick the brains of someone who’s been there and done it.
“He’s probably a national hero, everybody loves that Fred’s joining us and I’m sure he’ll enjoy it as much himself. Over the next week or so, I’m sure he’ll have plenty of laughs inside there.”
Flintoff is not expected to continue with England beyond a series which is a dress rehearsal for the defence of their World Cup crown, with the teams kicking off the tournament in Ahmedabad on October 5.
New Zealand laid down an early marker in the Welsh capital but England decided not to risk Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood because of varying niggles while Moeen Ali and Sam Curran were rested.
Compounding matters was premier leg-spinner Adil Rashid struggling with cramp after bowling three overs, which allowed unbeaten centurions Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell to settle into their stride.
Rashid’s absence increased the workload of Livingstone, who followed up a cameo 52 off 40 balls by conceding just 13 runs from four overs before seeing a tough chance off Mitchell go down in his fifth.
Livingstone finished with unflattering figures of 7.4-0-47-0 but is seeking more involvement with the ball, having recently decided to make a technical tweak to his mix-and-match spin.
“I feel like I work on my bowling to become a genuine all-rounder,” the 30-year-old said. “It doesn’t come as naturally to me as batting does but it was nice that the first few overs came out really well.
“I’ve changed a few things with my bowling, it sounds weird but I’m in more of a development phase. I only made the change about three weeks ago so hopefully I’ll keep getting better and better.
“It’s a technical thing I’ve been working on to try and get a bit more shape on the ball, to ultimately try and get more wickets and become a bigger threat.”
Having greater prominence with the ball as well as bat enhances his hopes of a starting berth at the World Cup, as well as staving off the threat of Harry Brook, looking to gatecrash the provisional squad.
Livingstone felt his outing on Friday was a “big stepping stone” after a diet of T20s and The Hundred matches since a long ankle injury lay-off last winter although he was spotted holding his back, which puts his involvement in the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday in doubt.
“I don’t know what it is, to be honest,” Livingstone added. “I was worried that it was my side at first, but I wouldn’t have been able to bowl again if it was.
“I’ve tried to play as much cricket as I can – I’ve not always been at full fitness – and I feel like I’m finally getting back to my best, and hopefully these games will help me get closer to that.
“I’m just enjoying being back playing. Whatever happens in India happens in India and to wake up every morning and to be able to put an England shirt on is pretty special. It would be stupid of me to look past that.”