Mark Wood has garnered much praise for his whole-hearted performances in the Ashes, but England’s pace turns that fanfare into things that matter: “wickets and wins”.
Ustralia has given Wood the shine over the past few weeks, with the ability to repeatedly clear the 90mph barrier and deliver significant blows to a side that has mostly been seeing its stock climb.
His bare numbers tell only half of the story – eight wickets at 37.62 – but the identities of his victims do the rest. Since becoming the world’s number one batsman, Wood has dismissed Marnus Labuschagne three times in 17 balls and has also got the best player of Steve Smith and David Warner.
But he is not content to console himself with warm words from pundits and some generous cheers from domestic fans.
When he lines up for the day/night Test in Hobart on Friday, he is looking for a solid prize.
“Personally I am happy with my effort, but when you are playing for England the effort is a given,” he said.
“You should give everything you’ve got every time. I’ve given 100 percent. It’s one last big push for me to try to keep my pace up and offer that to the team. Good and good to play the game.” But it’s my win and wicket, so that’s my priority.
I kept my pace but didn’t get the wicket I really wanted. Now I have one more chance to finally put something in the right column in this gamemark wood
“I have kept my pace but I didn’t get the wicket I really wanted. Now I have one more chance to put something in the right column at the end of this game.
“I want to step up my game and prove myself against the best players. It’s always special when you take big wickets – Smith, Warner, Marnus – they are top players.”
Asked whether he achieved a ‘moral victory’ by doing his best with those key rivals, his reply was swift and emphatic.
“Not really, because we’re getting battered,” he said.
“If I was taking those wickets and we were winning the game, I would say yes, but at the time we are not, it’s important to change that.”
Wood turns 32 this week and given the hard work he has put into bowling fast, he could well compete in his final Ashes Test Down Under over the next five days.
If so, he will leave with disappointing memories and a desire to fix them when Australia hosts the Twenty20 World Cup later this year.
“I definitely don’t want to feel like I did in this series again, where I’ve been disappointed in the dressing room,” he said.
“It’s not a good place to be. That’s why I will come to win the T20 World Cup and in this last Test match, we have come here to win as well. We haven’t done very well on this trip, but we stand by.” There is a chance to show some character by being there.”
England are set to bring in Kent wicketkeeper Sam Billings on debut, called cover for the injured Jos Buttler, and are also likely to recall Rory Burns in place of Haseeb Hameed.
Ben Stokes is set to continue as a specialist batsman after suffering a side strain, which will be decided by Jonny Bairstow’s injury to his right thumb. He is clearly in an uncomfortable position but is coming fresh with a brilliant century in the drawn Sydney Test and may be reluctant to make way. Ollie Pope stands.
In the bowling department, spinners Jack Leach and 39-year-old James Anderson will be replaced by Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes.