Mark Wood, England’s fast bowler, is keen to unleash more ‘thunderbolts’ on Australia in the final two Tests of this fascinating Ashes series, which he helped keep alive with a remarkable performance at Headingley. Despite not being conditioned enough to bear such loads due to limited playing time this year, the 33-year-old is certain his body will withstand the rigors of fast bowling.
After nearly two years since his last home Test and missing the first two games of the series at Edgbaston and Lord’s, Ben Stokes unleashed Wood in Leeds with a simple order. “He [Stokes] simply asked, ‘Are you ready?'” ‘Are you prepared to throw some thunderbolts?’ “I said yes, and that was the end of it,” Wood revealed.
The fast bowler added much-needed zip to England’s assault, with his bowling speed peaking at 96.5mph on the first day of the Leeds Test, which he finished with his maiden Test match five-fer on home soil. While Wood’s aim has switched to maintaining his average speeds, such as those not seen in an Ashes series since Brett Lee’s performances in 2005, the immediate goal at hand is to recuperate well before the second Test in Manchester.
A free week before the Old Trafford Test is especially important for an injury-prone Wood, who hadn’t played competitive cricket since his tenure with the Lucknow Super Giants in the IPL prior to the Test match in Leeds. “This was my first game in a long, long time, particularly in Test cricket.” “I’m going to let my body recover, get myself in a good place, let the wounds heal, and get ready for the next one,” he stated.
“I did four [Tests] last time I was in Australia, and three of them were in a row,” Wood explained. “It’s a big ask, but it’s one I’ve done before, and I’ll draw on that experience to try again.” I’ll consult with the physio, but I expect to bowl once or twice, do a couple of gym sessions, and maybe some running, but nothing too strenuous. I need to give my body time to heal.”
Wood’s bowling speeds and seven wickets in the match were outstanding, but he also stepped up with the bat in each innings at Headingley. He added 24 off just 8 deliveries in the first innings to help England close the gap, and then added a vital 16 not out in the second innings to help England cross the line in an eighth-wicket stand with Mark Wood.
“It fills me with great pride to say that I can do well against Australia,” Wood remarked. “Take a look at Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. One, it is not simple. Second, it’s quite intimidating. They bowl quickly and with good bounce. They almost always come out on top. Fortunately, I was able to get through one out of a hundred this time.”
Wood’s heroics, as well as England’s comeback in the third Test, have generated another wave of flashbacks to the legendary 2005 series, with each game so far going down to the wire. Wood, on the other hand, believes the comparisons are a little early.
“When you’re in it, I don’t think you appreciate it as much,” he explained. “2005 was the absolute pinnacle for me.” I don’t think it’s been on that scale, but it’s nice to have that support, which has been incredible everywhere we’ve gone. People messaging on the street, you can feel it. It’s incredible that we can carry this weight of support with us as a country.”