Over the past two weeks, Mark Wood’s stock has risen once again as an England bowler. Recalled to the Test team in St Lucia and back opening the bowling for the ODI team after being largely overlooked in Sri Lanka, Wood has responded by bowling quickly and well. It has been a timely resurgence, because he knows he is one of the players at risk once Jofra Archer becomes available for England.
Barbados born Archer’s pending availability once his qualification period is complete, and the promise of what he could bring to Eoin Morgan’s team for the World Cup, is hanging over the incumbent fast bowlers during this series. Each match is an audition, and although Morgan has been consistent in his selection and game-plan over the past four years, Archer’s talent will not be easily ignored.
“I think I am one of the guys under threat,” Wood said on Saturday (February 23). “Obviously he [Archer] is a world-class performer. I’d be stupid to think that if I didn’t put in the hard yards that my place wouldn’t be up for grabs. He bowls quick as well.
“It is not really talked about in the dressing room or anything like that. I wouldn’t say that night and day I’m up worried about Archer’s role. I’m just going to continue with this bit of confidence I’ve got and half-decent form to push my own case.
“I feel higher in the pecking order in Test match cricket, but I’m not so sure in ODIs. We’ve got such a good squad. I was left out most of the time in Sri Lanka so to come back in and put in two fairly decent performances with the newer ball is pretty pleasing.”
Olly Stone was preferred to Wood for much of the Sri Lankan ODI series and that might have been the case in the Caribbean had he not suffered a stress fracture of the back which forced him to head home. Stone’s injury meant Wood was called up for the Test series too and his brilliance in the third Test St Lucia, where he reached 94.6 mph in the first innings on the way to a match-winning five-wicket haul, followed.
Benefitting from a new, longer run-up, Wood has bowled similarly quickly in the opening two ODIs of the series, reaching 93 mph in the second match on Friday. In that match, he also managed to find some reverse swing and was unlucky to finish with just the one wicket from his ten overs. Nevertheless, he has comfortably been England’s best fast bowler across the two games.
Wicket-taking has, however, been an issue for Wood in ODI cricket generally. He has only taken 35 wickets in 37 ODIs at an average of nearly 50. “I’d have liked a few more wickets [in Barbados],” he said. “My wickets-to-games ratio is still down so I’d like to improve that. I don’t think I have fulfilled the role that I would like to.
“But Joe Root keeps saying little things to me. In the second ODI he said to me ‘well bowled’ after my spell and then he said ‘don’t worry the wickets will come, right now you’re getting wickets for other people.’
“So there is more to it than just me trying to get five wickets every game. I think trying to help people at the other end and creating pressure for others to feed off is what I’ve done well over the past couple of games. I feel like I’ve had decent rhythm. If I keep doing the right things then more wickets will come.”
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