Mark Wood is a man on a mission to prove he can be the “X factor” bowler England lacked during the Ashes.
The fit-again Durham seamer was much missed during the 4-0 series defeat, where the tourists were consistently outgunned for pace by Australia, but made a low-key return to England colours during Thursday’s one-day warm-up win at Sydney’s Drummoyne Oval.
On paper he contributed little to the five-wicket win over a Cricket Australia XI, a game which serves as the only hit out before the series proper begins in Melbourne on Sunday, yet figures of nought for 68 tell only half a tale.
Wood, celebrating both his 28th birthday and his Test recall for the New Zealand series in March, needed less than an over to remind onlookers why he is treated as such a precious commodity, summoning a vicious bouncer that threatened Matt Renshaw’s throat as much as his outside edge.
He was comfortably England’s quickest bowler as they kept the hosts to 258 for nine but that probably counted against him on a small pitch and at least two of the three sixes he conceded off the bat of 17-year-old Mackenzie Harvey might have been caught on a larger outfield.
England eased over the line on the back of captain Eoin Morgan’s 81 not out, but it was Wood who emerged to discuss his comeback with the media.
“I’ve been chomping at the bit,” he said after a winter spent working back from heel and ankle problems with the Lions rather than fighting for the Ashes urn.
“I’d like to prove a point to everyone, to my team-mates and the media, that I can be that X-factor bowler that they want. Nought for 68 doesn’t read well, I reckon I bowled a lot of dot balls and a lot of fours and sixes, but I was really pleased with how it came out.
“(I want) to prove it to everyone else that when I’m on I can add something different and I can do it for a long period of time and be consistent. That’s my role in the team, to ramp it up and be aggressive and try to take wickets by bowling fast.”
Wood’s short-term aim may be a successful one-day series Down Under, but he cannot hide the fact his Ashes absence hurt.
He considered himself fit enough to play some part during the series but understood the management’s caution, particularly after being honest enough to admit he has occasionally turned out for his country while struggling.
That would not happen again, he promises, because he has realised that a half-fit Wood outing does nothing for him or the team as a whole.
“It’s something that I haven’t coped well with in the past when I’ve not been quite 100 per cent,” he said.
“I’m desperate to play for England but there are probably a couple of games I played in the past when I shouldn’t have played and that has damaged my reputation with coaches and selectors. I’d rather be honest now than play and not do myself justice.”