Liam Livingstone is a man for a good time, not a long time. His 52 off 40 balls in an eight-wicket defeat to New Zealand on Friday was the second-longest innings of his 47-match England career, three balls behind the whirlwind 103 against Pakistan that marked his international breakthrough two years ago.
It was a timely re-statement of his credentials in 50-over cricket after a quiet summer, with England due to finalise their World Cup squad in the next couple of weeks. Before his innings in Cardiff, Livingstone had not scored a half-century in any form of the game since the IPL in May and said that spending some time in the middle had done him "the world of good".
"This is my role: I'm somebody that comes in towards the end of the innings," Livingstone said, having walked out at No. 6 in the 38th over. "I'm not going to be someone who bats at No. 3 for England in ODI cricket."
Livingstone rushed back from an ankle injury last year in order to feature in England's T20 World Cup win in Australia and the issue flared up again earlier this year, delaying his arrival at the IPL. He also suffered a knee injury on Test debut in Pakistan in December, and said that he had been playing while "half-cooked" in the T20 Blast.
"It's not always ideal to play when you're injured and get yourself out of form," he said. "That sort of stuck with me through the Hundred and the T20s [against New Zealand] so I've been crying out for a bit of time in the middle. I had a bit more time in the middle today and, as it went on, I felt like I was moving better, I was seeing the ball better."
He briefly held his back while bowling and could be rested in Sunday's second ODI at the Ageas Bowl - though is not thought to be a serious fitness doubt for the rest of the series.
"I've not played 50-over cricket for 18  months," he said. "I've had two pretty big injuries… I feel like I'm finally getting back to my best. Hopefully these games will help me get closer to that. Fifty-over cricket is a different animal [to T20] on your body."
When he enjoyed his golden 2021 summer, which included that T20 century against Pakistan, a dominant run of form in the Hundred and a straight six off Haris Rauf that cleared the football stand at Headingley, Livingstone exuded a self-assured confidence that he has found difficult to recapture in the last two years.
But there were glimpses of it on Friday, not least when he hit Kyle Jamieson for three consecutive sixes, two over the leg side and one back over his head, towards the River Taff. Livingstone has been playing golf with Jos Buttler of late, the pair styling themselves as Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka respectively; they translated their power-hitting into a partnership worth 77 off 59 balls.
"Sometimes, without the volume in the middle, it can be pretty difficult to just walk in and smack the ball out of the park without a lot of confidence in the middle behind you," Livingstone said.
"I really pride myself on being someone that can change a game; the more I can do it like I did today, over an extended period, the bigger asset I'll be to this one-day team… I know that when I'm at my best, I can be a massive asset to this team."
But it is Livingstone's bowling that makes him "a key part" of England's set-up heading into the World Cup, according to Eoin Morgan. Speaking on Sky Sports, Morgan said: "It's his all-round ability: in the field, he's unbelievably good, but also his ability to bowl wristspin and fingerspin makes him almost a dead-cert to play every game."
His versatlity ensures that England will retain their balance even with Ben Stokes playing as a specialist batter, with a frontline bowling option in their top six on top of Joe Root's offbreaks.
Livingstone conceded 47 in 7.4 wicketless overs on Friday, with his figures dented by a late flurry from Daryl Mitchell. He said he is still in "a development phase" having made a minor technical tweak in his action - "trying to hold my front side as long as I can" - while working with Jeetan Patel at Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred.
"I work on my bowling to become a genuine allrounder," he said. "It doesn't come as naturally to me as batting, but it was nice that the first few overs came out really well. [I'm trying to] be more of a threat rather than just someone who bowls really quick. I only made the change about three weeks ago.
"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. I was just fed up of being someone who bowls flat into the pitch and gets milked… I'm just trying to evolve as a bowler, which will ultimately make me a better cricketer."