There could not be a greater contrast between the resumption of the IPL and the climax of the County Championship but one man will be playing an integral part in one while keeping a close eye on the other.
Liam Livingstone is a key figure, in the absence of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, for Rajasthan Royals on the return of the richest and glitziest of franchise tournaments.
But on Tuesday he will be just as invested in the more traditional surroundings of Aigburth in Liverpool where his Lancashire side can clinch only their second Championship title, outright, in the last 87 years with victory over Hampshire.
Liam Livingstone has revealed he has ambitions to play Test cricket with England in the future
‘I’ll be watching on the live stream when I’m not playing,’ said Livingstone from Dubai where he is preparing for Rajasthan’s first game in the return of the IPL against Punjab Kings. ‘It’s a massive opportunity for Lancashire to do something really special.
‘I saw it was the 10-year anniversary of us last winning the Championship the other day and it’s a really good time to be a Lancashire player. I’m their biggest fan when I’m away and try to follow the boys as much as I can. I’ll be following this week.’
Lancashire, in the modern franchise-heavy world, have had to live without Livingstone after his break-out white-ball summer in which he forced his way into the England Twenty20 side in time for next month’s World Cup and made a huge impact on the inaugural Hundred.
One of the world’s most exciting white-ball stars, Livingstone has impressed for the T20 team
The Cumbrian is indisputably the white-ball star of the summer.
It means, at 28, he has finally fulfilled the huge big-hitting potential which stalled four years ago after two disappointing T20 internationals and a spell as Lancashire captain that ended in relegation from the first division in 2018.
‘I could never have hoped at the start of the summer it would go as well as it has but the little taster I had with England in India last winter was the moment I thought, “I actually belong at this level”,’ Livingstone told Sportsmail. ‘Taking that confidence into the summer really helped me.
‘I had an opportunity in 2017 and didn’t take it but maybe that was the kick up the backside I needed to say, “I’ve had one good year and I’ve managed to get into an England squad but it hasn’t gone too well. That’s fine. Time to re-set and go again”.
Livingstone will keep an eye on Lancashire as they look to seal the County Championship title
‘I’ve worked really hard since then and travelled the world to try to make my game better and make myself better as a person. Even my experience as Lancashire captain helped with that. It was a massive privilege but it was just something I struggled with. I was probably too young and didn’t really know how to manage people.
‘I’m definitely a better person and player for doing it and I guess I always felt further down the line that work and the experiences I’ve had would pay off. It has this summer.’
Spectacularly so, for Livingstone has made it impossible for England’s star-studded T20 side to leave him out – notably when he hit the fastest hundred for England in any format against Pakistan at Trent Bridge and then when he smashed what could well have been the biggest six of all time over the new Emerald Stand at Headingley.
‘I was so engrossed in trying to win the game I had no idea I’d reached a hundred,’ said Livingstone of that 42-ball century. ‘I remember hitting a six and all of a sudden seeing the scoreboard and realising I’d got there. It was a proud moment, especially when you consider some of the boys who have played white-ball cricket for England.
Lancashire, in the modern franchise-heavy world, have had to live without Livingstone (above)
‘It will probably be a career-turning moment for me too. It was when I really realised I could perform at the highest level. You always have a little doubt at the back of your mind and to do it gets that monkey off your back and allows you to enjoy your cricket. It was a very special day but it was very disappointing we didn’t win.’
Then there was that six at Leeds which soared over the three-tier stand into the rugby ground and was measured at 122 metres. It was so big it needed Google Maps to record where it ended up. ‘I remember hitting it and thinking, “That could be in the top tier, it’s quite big”,’ said Livingstone. ‘Then it just kept on going and going.
‘I get tagged in it all the time on social media so it’s something I’ll be remembered for. I’ve got some good memories from Headingley this year. Lancashire boys don’t always get the greatest of receptions there so it was nice.’
It was not only with England that Livingstone made his mark as he hit 27 sixes for Birmingham Phoenix and became the MVP of the first Hundred. The new tournament made quite an impression on him.
Livingstone hit 27 sixes for Birmingham Phoenix and also became the MVP of the first Hundred
‘The biggest thing I’ve seen this year is the number of kids who now want to play cricket or really enjoy watching it,’ he said.
‘That’s what the Hundred is all about. The most special thing has been kids coming up and telling me they enjoyed watching me in the Hundred and want to bat like me. That’s the coolest thing that has come out of this summer. The Hundred was great to play in and can only go from strength to strength.’
Livingstone is now one of the best and most exciting white-ball players in the world but traditionalists will be pleased to hear that a man who averages 38 in first-class cricket after 62 games for Lancashire with seven hundreds still has big red-ball ambitions.
With the ability to be a genuine all-rounder by bowling off- and leg-spin, Livingstone could even fill some Stokes-sized shoes in the England Test team.
With an ability to be a genuine all-rounder, Livingston could fill some Ben Stokes-sized shoes
‘It’s something I’m not giving up on and hopefully I can get time to work on it,’ he said. ‘It was nice to hear people like Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen saying this summer I could play Test cricket because they were two of my heroes.
‘Test cricket is still the pinnacle of our sport and it’s what everybody dreams of playing growing up. I would love to play Test cricket one day.’
You would not bet against him doing it.