“With the figures of 4 wickets for 60 runs from his 10 overs, Wood got the deliverance he was searching for since the start of the ODI series”
Amidst all the characters perambulating the cricketing field, fast bowlers are a particularly intriguing persona. Theirs is a role which demands great discipline – mentally as well as physically. They are the ones expected to deliver the swooshing sound of the ball into the batsmen’s ears to intimidate them into submission. They are also expected to reign-in the run-rate when things aren’t going as per the plans. On top of it all, they have to be at their physical best when it comes to manoeuvring the ball beyond the 22-yards. All this is draining, physically as well as mentally, but then it is the game of 22-yards and there are some players who just thrive in such challenges. One of them is a recently ‘re-incarnated’ English Pacer, Mark Wood.
Before his folklore-kind of a comeback in the last Test against Windies, Wood’s career painted a sorry picture when compared to the enormous talent he possesses. His 34 wickets from 35 games with the white-cherry reflected a wickets-to-game ratio of less than 1. Added to the sparse returns from his skill-set, injuries were a regular occurrence dotting his short career. Surely the odds were heavily stacked against him and what he needed to do in those times of unending hinderance to his success was a-thorough-scrutiny of his game which he, like an obedient student of the game, did. So, what was the result of the study? A minor tweak to the physical as well as the mental aspect of his game.
“I used to have a sprinter’s run-up, it was quite short and I felt like I had to be explosive all the time. I have moved it back just to get a bit more rhythm. It’s like an old-school fast bowler’s run-up. I gather a bit of momentum and can then cruise into my bowling. The wicket now looks twice as far away. I am fitter now that I am running in further.”
Also read: Mark ‘Express’ Wood rocks West Indies
Now that we have learned of the tweaks in Wood’s own words, let’s move on to the results they produced. His first shot at glory came in the last Test against the Caribbean Team which was, simply put, blown away by his heavy-lifting deliveries. He was easily the fastest and the most effective fast bowler in that Test. After helping his side salvage some pride in that Test match, Wood had to re-calibrate his game from the rigors of the Red-ball to the excitement of the White-ball. In a match which marked the return of the “Universe Boss” into the West Indian ODI fold, Wood suffered a heavy beating going for an extravagant seven runs an over for his seven overs. But Wood remained unfazed and focussed on the process.
The second ODI of the ongoing series marked his switch into the white-ball mode. His figures of 1 wicket for 38 runs from 10 overs might not impress his naysayers but were mightily important in the context of the game. His discipline upfront and the brilliant reverse-swing bowling later marked his all-important contribution in restricting the West Indians to a score of under-300 runs. But the deliverance was yet to come and the wait for it was prolonged by the Caribbean Rain-gods as it rained cats and dogs in Grenada to drown the third encounter.
Grenada offered a belter in the fourth ODI and English batsmen took full toll of it to notch-up England’s fourth 400-plus total after the 2015 World Cup. Now the onus of was on the bowlers to restrict the West Indian charge. In a run-chase where English bowlers were given a sound thrashing, Wood and Liam Plunkett were the only ones to go under 8.5 runs per over. Wood’s pace and guiles were on display again as he nipped out John Campbell and Shai Hope inside the first six overs to rattle the West Indian chase. Hope’s dismissal was particularly pleasing as Wood used the ‘Two-Card’ trick perfectly.
He first delivered a short ball to keep Hope into the crease and then went on with a fuller next ball to catch the edge as Hope tried to play with his feet stuck into the crease and could only manage it as far as Jos Buttler behind the wickets. Wood’s pace was again into the play when he struck a double blow in the 24th over of the chase to get rid of the dangerous duo of Darren Bravo (61 of 59) and Shimron Hetmyer (6 of 2). Both the wickets were a result of brilliantly executed short balls and resulted in the derailment of the Windies chase.
With the figures of 4 wickets for 60 runs from his 10 overs, Wood got the deliverance he was searching for since the start of the ODI series. He is up and running, feels himself in high esteem and is raring to improve upon his dismal wickets-to-game ratio. His speed is threatening and body fitter than ever. Hopefully, his rise continues its upward spike so that we get to witness the Durham speedster’s blazing speed in the World Cup. After all, it’s the thrill we love experiencing and there’s no doubt that Wood’s pace surely provides an ample sum of it.