Mark Wood says five-wicket haul finally proves he is an England player
Mark Wood believes his maiden five-wicket haul against West Indies in the third Test has allowed him to finally show he is an England player.
The 29-year-old fast bowler admitted the dark times were "really bad" as he battled ankle injuries but his 5 for 41 to ruin West Indies' chances of overhauling England's first-innings total of 277 was a welcome reward for him and perhaps a message to the doubters.
"I've had some horrible dark days with injuries and things like confidence and self-belief," Wood said. "I thought in my own mind I was an England player but I hadn't shown it. I felt like today I've showed I am an England player.
"It's nice to show some people who've probably doubted me in the past, I've even doubted myself that I can do it, but I wouldn't say I'm out of the woods yet."
A longer run-up and an impressive trip to UAE with England Lions - he took 4 for 67 and 1 for 56 in a four-day game against Pakistan in November - had Wood believing in his body once more. His blistering pace against West Indies in his 13th Test and first since last May was further proof.
"[There were] times where I had no confidence slamming my front foot down ... there were times when I was desperate to do well, trying my hardest, but it just wasn't quite happening for us but luckily today is a day when it's clicked," Wood said.
"I just don't feel like I have to force it as much," he said of his extended run-up, which has dispensed with his sprinter-like initial burst of speed. "I'm still hitting the floor ... but with more momentum, more rhythm. Before, I had to get up to speed quick and to get up high pace, I had to muscle it a little bit whereas now I feel in more rhythm, and I can get in the spin of things and today it just clicked."
His rediscovered self-belief came to fruition on the second day in St Lucia, but he had had to wait for the opportunity after being a late call-up to the England squad in the Caribbean when Olly Stone returned home with a back injury before the first Test.
"I felt I was actually here on merit," Wood said. "I felt because I'd done well there [in UAE] it merited my spot being here and this time I wasn't picked on potential, I deserved it."
And should the self-doubt creep in at any stage again, Wood can call on his latest performance to help him through.
"It's a day I'll never forget so any time it's not going quite right I can look back on this game and have fond memories," he said.