Mark Wood admits he took a gamble on his fitness to make himself available for the fourth Test at the Wanderers, but is delighted that he did so after starring with bat and ball to put England on course for a memorable 3-1 series win.
Wood, who admitted to “soreness” after an energetic display in England’s innings win at Port Elizabeth last week, seemed set to be rested from this game until Jofra Archer pulled out through injury shortly before the toss.
And ever since that moment, Wood has been England’s most eye-catching performer (with ball, and less expectedly, bat) to underline both his effectiveness and his fitness. The highlight, in his day-job at least, was a delivery of 94.4mph that claimed the wicket of Pieter Malan, although his personal pick was a cover-driven six during his thrillingly free-wheeling tenth-wicket stand with Stuart Broad that left him “buzzing”.
But as well as expressing delight in helping England gain the upper hand in the game, Wood was also thrilled that he had proved he could play back-to-back Tests. For Wood’s career has been blighted by injury and the last time he attempted to play two Tests so close together, against South Africa in 2017, he struggled horribly.
“I’ve been through periods when I shouldn’t have played when I did,” said Wood. “At least two Test matches – the Lord’s Ashes Test of 2015 and the Trent Bridge South Africa Test of 2017 – hurt my career and probably took me backwards.”
“Probably until the morning of this game I wasn’t in the team,” said Wood. “I put a lot of effort into the last game and I was a bit sore after it. I hadn’t played for six or seven months before it. I was just stiff and sore everywhere.
“But on the morning of the game I spoke to the captain and the coach and said ‘if you want me, I’m ready to go’. I couldn’t guarantee to them I could bowl 90mph in my fourth or fifth spells but I felt good in the warm-ups and I told Chris Silverwood: ‘I’m not quite sure how it’s going to go, but I’m ready to charge in for you one more time.’
“I’m glad I made that decision as it’s gone well.”
Indeed it has. As well as three of the first six wickets, Wood struck a belligerent and unbeaten 35 to extend England’s innings to 400. It’s the first time since March 2013 that England have made successive scores of 400 in Test cricket, while his 82-run 10th-wicket stand with Broad, who thrashed an equally entertaining 43, was the highest for the wicket ever made in a Test on the ground. Incredible as it sounds, Wood has now hit as many sixes in his Test career – 10 – as David Gower did in the whole of his.
Afterwards, Wood credited his wife, Sarah, and his dad, Derek, for the help they had given him with his batting.
“I did a lot of work in the Newcastle indoor centre, behind the scenes there on the bowling machine,” Wood said. “Sometimes with my Dad, sometimes with my wife feeding me the balls on the machine.
“I knew we were coming here and it was a bit bouncy, so I was working on how I thought they’d attack me, either at the stumps or at my head. My wife hit me [with the ball] a couple of times. She has been laughing, telling me to get in line.
“Dad as well is particularly spicy but Silverwood is the worst because he laughs when he hits you. You think the coach would be more supportive but he just laughs. He’s still got a fast bowler in him I think.
“I was buzzing with the six I hit over cover-point. Externally you have to act all professional and that, but internally I was like ‘what a shot that was’. I was trying not to look too buzzing.”
But it’s the bowling that really marks Wood out as a valuable player for England. And while, in those previous back-to-back Tests his figures have been pretty ugly – he finished with 1 for 131 in the match at Lord’s and 0 for 129 at Trent Bridge – here he has already claimed 3 for 21. Not for the first time, the thought occurred that his statistics should be judged differently since he lengthened his run-up at the end of 2018. Since then, his 12 Test wickets have cost 14.75 apiece.
“Since I changed my run-up things seem to click a little easier,” he said. “I’m not forcing it as much and I feel I have better rhythm. Plus, having an iconic stadium and quick pitch gives you extra incentive to impress.”
According to CricViz, only Steve Harmison – like Wood, a product of Ashington and Durham – has bowled a quicker wicket-taking delivery for England since speedguns were introduced in Test cricket: a 97mph delivery to dismiss Glenn McGrath at Perth in 2006.
“I don’t know if the ball to Malan was the best ball I’ve bowled,” said Wood. “My first-ever wicket – well, it wasn’t technically a wicket – was Martin Guptill at Lord’s. It was a very similar ball but it turned out my foot was just over the line and it was a no-ball. I was pretty close this time but I just got a tiny bit of foot behind it.
“Winning this series would mean a hell of a lot to me. I want to affect games of cricket for England. It was nice to get some runs and get some catches in the last game, but I know my main suit is my bowling. To be able to win a series away from home against a quality opposition would be especially pleasing for me after coming through some hard times.”
Zimbabwe series will be Mashrafe Mortaza’s last as captain – BCB president
BCB president Nazmul Hassan has said the upcoming three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe will be Mashrafe Mortaza‘s last assignment as Bangladesh captain. He said that a new captain will be named “within a month” as Bangladesh plan the road ahead for the 2023 World Cup.
Hassan also said that the board will be “lenient” on the 36-year old Mortaza’s fitness levels in the lead-up to the ODI series against Zimbabwe, which begins with the first match in Sylhet on March 1. However, after the home series against Zimbabwe, Mortaza’s place in the squad will depend upon his form and fitness, according to Hassan.
“We have started to stress on beep tests so Mashrafe may not pass the beep tests, so we can drop him if he doesn’t pass it,” he said. “We also have to keep it in mind that Mashrafe’s leadership was vital in the turnaround in Bangladesh cricket. But, the time has come for him to decide how long he wants to play. I think Mashrafe will play the ODI series against Zimbabwe, pending fitness. We will be lenient about his fitness. But very soon, we have to decide on the team and captain for the next World Cup. We don’t have much time. We will take our decision after this ODI series.”
Hassan said that Mortaza had agreed on a retirement match at home during the 2019 World Cup, but the captain later changed his mind. Earlier in January this year, Mortaza had said that he will keep playing as long as he is enjoying the game, and not retiring just because the BCB president has said that they would throw a big party.
Before Bangladesh travel to Pakistan for a solitary ODI on April 3, the BCB is likely to name the new captain.
“Retirement depends on individual players,” Hassan said. “We know that top players retire on their own will. We also wanted to give him a good send-off. He can play if he wants to, but I am more concerned about the captaincy. Once we declare on the captaincy, he can enter the team on his performance.
“When I spoke to him during the World Cup, we discussed that if we can arrange a home ODI, he will retire. After returning, he changed his mind. And then he also said that he doesn’t want a send-off. He never told me. I saw it in the media. We have taken a month or a month and a half to decide our next ODI captain.”
Hassan was also critical of the Test side, saying he wasn’t hopeful of Bangladesh beating Zimbabwe in the one-off Test. After holding a meeting with the Test side on Wednesday, Hassan addressed the media.
“I have been seeing in the media in the last few days that things will be great after beating Zimbabwe. I don’t see it happening,” he said. “I have no hope. I told them, if you take them lightly, it will be a big disaster. Zimbabwe is where Zimbabwe was. We are not where we were. They have recently performed better than us.
“If someone asks me what was Bangladesh’s worst performance at home, I’d say losing to Afghanistan. It was unacceptable. If we lose to Afghanistan, we can lose to Zimbabwe. We need to have a new mindset. Our seniors must take the major responsibilities, and it has to be a team game.”
Hassan slammed the T20I side for losing 2-0 in Pakistan. He also called the Test captain Mominul Haque as “soft” and “shy”, and someone who would need help from senior pros like Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim.
“I told them that it was unacceptable to lose to Pakistan in the T20Is,” he said. “Nobody would say that we played poorly in India, but I told them that I didn’t like their approach and mindset in the Pakistan T20I series. I spoke to them about these things, ones that I had mentioned in the media but I wasn’t finding time to speak to the players. I reinforced that we are almost unbeatable at home, and we must beat at least four or five teams in their home conditions.
“I told them, ‘don’t take Zimbabwe lightly’. We must work in a planned way. Mominul is new, plus he is quite shy. Soft. I told Tamim and Mushfiq must be involved fully to charge up the team.”
In a bizarre twist, Hassan also informed the media that he had ordered the Bangladesh players and management that they would have to inform him of the playing XI, down to the batting line-up, before the game.
“I want to know the game plan on the day before the game, and the playing XI,” he said. “Why? It started from the World Cup and then the Afghanistan series, there is a total change; nothing has happened the way I expected. Those who had never played in the top order were given those roles. It was experimentation. In Pakistan too, what was told to me didn’t happen.
“I have told them that they have to give me the batting sequence and cannot drop a player in one game and then pick him again. I understand that they want to try a few boys. Our coach, who is relatively new, wants to see the fast bowlers. But whatever happens, they have to let me know in advance.”
USA allrounder Nisarg Patel banned from bowling due to suspect action
Nisarg Patel, the USA allrounder, has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect after an independent assessment found his action to be illegal.
Patel, a left-arm spinner, was reported after his side’s ODI against Oman on February 11 in Kathmandu. He bowled seven overs in the game, returning figures of 0 for 37.
An assessment was then carried out by an expert panel, as per clause 4.7 of the ICC’s illegal bowling regulations, which concluded that Patel’s bowling action was above the permitted 15-degree level. His suspension will remain in place until he undertakes a review of his action by the ICC’s expert panel, or is cleared by an ICC testing centre.
It is possible that Patel will continue to be picked as a batsman alone. While he averages just 20.28 in ODIs, he made a maiden half-century in the game against Oman earlier in the month from only 32 balls, USA’s fastest ODI fifty.
Dimuth Karunaratne back as captain, Niroshan Dickwella recalled for West Indies ODIs
As many as ten players opted out of Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan last year, the last time they played ODI cricket, and Sri Lanka have included many of them in a strong squad led by Dimuth Karunaratne, who was one of the players to withdraw, for the three-ODI series against West Indies starting Saturday.
The 15-man squad also sees the return of Niroshan Dickwella, who last played an ODI in March 2019 before being dropped for the home games against Bangladesh in July. He also chose not to travel to Pakistan, as did Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews, all now back in the squad.
The seam bowling attack for the series comprises of Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara and Isuru Udana, but is without senior bowler Suranga Lakmal, who played in the World Cup last year, but has been omitted from ODIs since. There were no surprises on the spin front: Wanindu Hasaranga, who impressed in Pakistan, and Lakshan Sandakan, are the frontline options. The offspin of De Silva is also there as support. Dasun Shanaka and Mathews are the secondary seam bowling options.
Opener Danushka Gunathilaka, meanwhile, missed out on selection due to injury, with the selectors instead going with Shehan Jayasuriya.
Lahiru Thirimanne had led Sri Lanka in the ODIs in Pakistan, but he was dropped for the upcoming games after scoring 36 and 0 in the two completed games in Karachi, both of which Sri Lanka lost.
Minod Bhanuka, Oshada Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Angelo Perera were some of the younger players who made the trip to Pakistan but missed out this time, with the return of the high-profile players.
The three ODIs will be played on February 22 and 26 and March 1 in Colombo, Hambantota and Pallekele respectively, before the teams contest two T20Is.
Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Shehan Jayasuriya, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara
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