Wednesday 29 January 2020 8:21 pm

Mark Wood's comeback from injury shows the strength in depth England's bowling attack now has

England won the fourth Test match against South Africa on Monday to seal a 3-1 series victory and there are a lot of positives for them to take out of the last six weeks.

South Africa are in a transitional phase and are clearly not what they used to be, but the fact England bounced back from losing the first Test to prove people wrong is very encouraging. 

That they did so with so many promising young players in the side is even more so, with Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Dom Bess and Sam Curran all performing well. 

No Anderson, no problem

I was also happy to see the strength in depth of the bowling department, which was without Jimmy Anderson for two Tests and Jofra Archer for three. 

I’m sure Archer will come back from his elbow injury and show just how good he is, but his absence allowed Mark Wood to shine, which was great to see.

mark Wood
Wood’s action takes a lot out of his body (via Getty Images)

Wood had the perfect conditions for him to exploit in Johannesburg and he showed the world just how good he is when he’s firing on all cylinders. 

He reached speeds of 94mph at The Wanderers, which makes such a difference against world-class batsmen. No matter how good you are, you don’t want to be facing someone with that pace. 

Wood will face tougher challenges on different kinds of pitches in the subcontinent and in Australia, but for him the main battle is just staying fit.

Bowling tweaks

As a fast bowler myself I know the struggles that come with dealing with injuries and I have a lot of sympathy for him. He has worked hard off the pitch and match figures of 9-100 were a fitting reward.

Wood lengthened his run-up to ease the pressure on his ankles and knee, which can be a difficult thing to do. He needed to change his action to reduce the stress, but bowling is all about momentum and tweaks like that take time to get used to.

Rassie van der Dussen
Wood’s pace troubled South Africa’s batsmen on the pitch Wanderers pitch (via Getty Images)

I actually went the other way, shortening my run-up when I encountered back problems. It worked for a short time, but ultimately it didn’t feel comfortable. 

There are so many moving parts to get in the right place, so I just hope Wood has found something that works for him, so he can turn his 15 Tests into 50 or 60. 

Buttler conundrum 

One of the only negatives for England is the form of Jos Buttler, who averaged just 16.42 in South Africa. 

There have been calls for Chris Silverwood to drop him, but I would give him more time. Buttler is one of the best white-ball batsmen I’ve ever seen. He is so talented and I feel it would be a waste to discard him now.

I’ve felt sorry for the likes of him and Ben Stokes over the past few years, because they have all too often been tasked with rebuilding the innings. But if the top-order solidity can remain then I hope the glimpses of Buttler’s genius can become more consistent.

If after a few more series it still hasn’t happened then, with Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes as possible replacements, I would groom him as Eoin Morgan’s successor as white-ball captain.