England new-boy tells Ross McLean he’s still adjusting to toll of Test cricket
WIDE-EYED England seamer Mark Wood admits Test cricket has him hooked despite the unrelenting fervour of an Ashes series being incomparable to anything he has experienced in his career.
The 25-year-old right-arm fast bowler announced himself on the international stage earlier this summer, mixing pace with guile as England premiered a new brand of attacking cricket against New Zealand. Timing his burst to prominence perfectly, two Tests and a handful of limited-overs tussles later, Wood – armed with his whippy action – was thrust into the cauldron of Ashes battle.
“I knew playing Test cricket for England would be tough but I find it quite difficult emotionally. Your mind is on constant overdrive,” Wood, who missed out on the third Test at Edgbaston after struggling with an ankle problem at Lord’s, told City A.M.
“It’s so much more intense than county cricket. At the end of the game you’re so tired, you’re wiped out by the nerves, the emotions, the euphoria, everything. All the emotions you can think of just come out. You have a couple of days’ rest and then it’s time to go again.
“But I absolutely love it. It’s hard to describe to people what it is like. I’m on cloud nine and still have to pinch myself a little bit. Playing in the Ashes is different to anything I’ve known before. I haven’t experienced so much hype previously or such levels of intensity, but I can’t get enough.”
Ashington-born Wood was playing minor counties cricket for Northumberland until 2010 and had only racked up 24 first-class matches – in part due to a patchy injury record – when summoned for England duty.
The selectors, however, had seen enough and his meteoric rise continued in the first Investec Ashes Test at Cardiff, where the consensus was he warranted more than four wickets.
But the brutal nature of Test cricket was laid bare in the second match at Lord’s where there was no hiding place for any England bowler on a docile pitch, and rookie Wood returned match figures of 1-131.
“I think I’ve done all right so far but I’m still looking forward to putting in that real game-changing or match-winning performance,” added Wood.
“So far there has been that element of surprise about me. Opponents wouldn’t have known that much about me before I got in the England set-up. That has probably helped make me. But maybe people are starting to talk about me now so I’ve got to try and stay one step ahead and make sure I’m more on top of them than they are of me.”
Wood’s now-infamous imaginary horse routine – initially employed to alleviate boredom while fielding – has also survived the transition to the Test arena and strengthened his case for assuming the role, previously held by Graeme Swann, of joker in the pack.
“I quite like that I have been given that label,’ he said. “I just try to enjoy myself and keep spirits high in the group and that’s just me being myself. I’m not trying extra hard to be like that or anything, that’s who I am.”