Mark Wood emerged from a chastening experience in Hamilton reassured that he is being primed for a lead role in England’s long-term future.
Wood conceded more than four-an-over at Seddon Park, where centuries from New Zealand Test discard Tom Blundell and unheralded tailender Kyle Jamieson gave England the runaround on day one of their pink-ball warm-up match.
Yet England’s fastest bowler knew even before start of play that his standing is high with captain Joe Root, who informed him the previous evening that he would take the new ball alongside James Anderson.
The reason for 28-year-old Wood’s elevation is significant.
Anderson and Stuart Broad, with a remarkable 922 Test wickets between them but also a combined age of 66, cannot go on forever as the twin strike force which has dominated England’s attack for the past decade.
Root therefore identified a relatively low-key occasion to deploy Wood with the new ball – so that when the time eventually comes, England will not be shoe-horning him into a key role to which he is unaccustomed.
After a New Zealand XI had recovered from 30 for five to 358 for eight, Wood explained why he had begun proceedings ahead of Broad.
“Yesterday, we had a bowlers’ meeting, and (Joe) pulled me in at the end and said that – further down the line – if the two guys finish at around the same time, we don’t want two fresh opening bowlers.
“I was a bit surprised when he told me, but it was obviously a huge honour to open the bowling for England – especially with Jimmy.
“I was shocked, because they’re a prolific opening partnership. But it was a chance for me to try to impress.”
Initially, he did – only to bear the brunt of the counter-attack as Blundell (131) and Jamieson (101) shared a stand of 163 in 32 overs.
He found the unexpected gear shift pretty perplexing.
“I’ve never seen a tailender hit the ball so cleanly,” Wood said of Jamieson.
“They hit the ball so hard and so clean all the time – it was a weird game of cricket.
“I don’t think we took our foot off the gas or anything. I felt like we still had that competitive edge... Jimmy was getting stuck in, I was bowling bouncers.
“We tried everything we could... (but) they played really well.”
England’s frustration was evident at times.
Wood added: “We tried different plans, slower balls, (but) they just kept hitting the ball cleanly. You’d think one would give you half-a-chance...
“Sometimes you’ve got to take your hat off and say ‘well played’.”
Wood appears to have an outside chance of playing in next week’s first Test, an inaugural day-night fixture at Auckland’s Eden Park, only if Ben Stokes or Chris Woakes fail to recover from minor injuries as expected.
“I know there’s a few of bowlers who’ve got a couple of niggles for this game, so this was a chance for me to put my name in the hat,” said Wood, who struggled particularly when he switched ends.
“I think they should burn that top end, so I don’t have to bowl from there any more.
“I guess it was rhythm. At times, I almost felt I tried too hard, got a bit tense and tried to bowl too quick – then when I let it flow, it seemed to come out better."
“(But) it was nice having the experience of Jimmy and Broady next to you. They know me well, so they can say where I’m going wrong and what I’m doing right.”
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