Wood has his eyes set on outpacing Jofra Archer

WI TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2020

With Anderson, Broad and Woakes being safe bets at home, Mark Wood has his eyes set on outpacing Jofra Archer

With Anderson, Broad and Woakes being safe bets at home, Mark Wood has his eyes set on outpacing Jofra Archer © Getty

Mark Wood admits he is in a pace race with Jofra Archer as the pair battle it out for the crown of England’s quickest bowler. Right now, Wood thinks Archer is winning that race but he is determined to catch up.

“I cannot speak for Jofra but I definitely want to be quicker than him and I’m sure he wants to be quicker than me,” Wood said. “Especially in the World Cup, he used to joke about it all the time, that they were putting my speeds up higher deliberately. If we were to play together it would be exciting. But it’s not a bad rivalry, it’s a friendly rivalry.

“I would say he’s probably quicker than I am and certainly makes it look a lot easier than me so I want to prove that I can be as fast as Jof. That friendly rivalry does spur you on to be a better cricketer.”

Both men were vital parts of last summer’s World Cup victory, combining for 38 wickets between them, but they have yet to play in a Test match together. Whether that happens during next month’s series against West Indies remains to be seen but having two 90 mph plus bowlers in the same attack is no doubt a tantalising prospect for England captain Joe Root, particularly with an away Ashes series only 18 months away.

The likelihood is, however, that England will select either Archer or Wood for the upcoming Tests against the West Indies, perhaps on a rotation basis given all three Tests are set to be played back-to-back. Each have had their injury problems of late. Wood only returned to Test cricket in the final two Tests in South Africa after a long lay-off and Archer missed three of the four matches in that series because of an elbow injury. England will want to treat both carefully.

With the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes experts at bowling in England, competition for places is fierce too. “I don’t see myself being in the best XI in home conditions,” Wood said. “Maybe away conditions suit me a little more. If you put your best XI down, I’m not sure my name would be in there. I’d love to be, and I’ll push as hard as I can to keep my spot but I’m thinking in home conditions I’m maybe not the first name on the team sheet. But we’ll wait and see what happens.”

Wood is the man in possession, of course, having played in England’s last Test match. His re-introduction to Test cricket in South Africa, after nearly 12 months out of the team because of injury, went as well as could have been hoped. He took a Test best nine wickets in the fourth Test at the Wanderers, bowling quickly and aggressively, to round off a 3-1 series win. “I put in probably my best performance in the last game,” Wood said.

By his own admission, however, Wood’s first innings spell against West Indies in St Lucia in February 2019 remains the quickest he has managed. Indeed, it was, by common consent, one of the fastest spells ever bowled by an English bowler. Wood ended up with 5 for 41 from 8.2 overs, an effort which kick started his career after an injury plagued, stop-start four years in international cricket.

“I felt in a great place, and I still look back on that performance with fond memories,” Wood said. “It really gave me confidence going into the World Cup and into South Africa so yes it probably was my consistent quickest. I think I could get that again.”

A shorter-run up paid almost immediate dividends. “I wish I’d changed my run up sooner, I think that was a big change,” he added. “Also the fact I went on a Lions tour before the West Indies to the UAE, got some confidence there and bowled well. Actually stepping out of the international scene, making some adjustments and things I needed to work on then coming back I felt a different player.

“Once you get that one score, or for me that one five-wicket haul, that gave me a massive boost. It sort of calmed me down where I’m not trying too hard and I can have that belief. I had the belief before but I was frustrated I had not showed people how good I could be. To get that five-for really helped and has allowed me to kick on.”

Wood is one of 30 players who assembled at the Ageas Bowl for England’s bio-secure pre-series camp on Tuesday (June 23). All the players and management were tested for Covid-19 on arrival and the results were all negative which means training can begin on Thursday.

“The organisers have done a fantastic job and literally there has been no stone unturned,” said Wood, who has been supporting children to get active through cricket as part of Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week – a week of fun, online activities for children at home or at school from the national cricket charity Chance to Shine.

“You come in and get a check straight away, your bags are cleaned and then you are sat in your room as if you have moved into a hotel room. The temperature check was weird – you just walk through a tent outside and they tell you you’re alright. Don’t know what would happen if you are not alright there!

“It is a bit like a sci-fi movie. Everybody is masked up you don’t know whether they are friendly or not, some people scowl more than you think. It is something we will have to get used to.

“You have to follow arrows and feet marks everywhere. You go to a food station with a chef who gives you your food. You’re not touching anything like you usually would. Then you go to the tables which are sporadically spaced out. This morning I had breakfast and looked at the back of Jos’ head.

“The cleaner can come in once a week for a deep clean. If you don’t want that to happen, you can refuse it. The state that my room will be in, I’ll definitely be accepting it. This is your space. Your own room is yours to look after and I’m not the cleanest. I’ll have clothes and stuff everywhere in a few days’ time.”

Easily bored, Wood says he will be on the hunt for things to occupy his mind. “Normally with masseur Mark Saxby as soon as I saw him I would be lifting him up in the air but I can’t go near him,” he said. “Everybody is trying to abide by the rules. Of course it is safety first. I am not a big golfer either and there is nothing else to do. You can’t go anywhere so I’m not sure what I’m going to get up to yet. It is a bit odd.

“The fact that Stokesy can’t get to me because we have to stay two metres apart, he is definitely on my radar. it is a question of how far I can push him before he snaps. I think yes I will get up to something. I have to stop the boredom. There is an old school arcade with street fighter console and I think that looks tempting. I might have a go on that. I might dress up for the part as well.”

Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week works with the charity Chance to Shine to support and grow the grassroots of the game in schools and communities. Join in at www.chancetoshine.org/ncw20

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