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George Dobell at Trent Bridge
May 1, 2013
Nottinghamshire 320 and 145 for 5 (Wood 3 for 36) trail Durham 471 (Smith 153, Wood 58) by six runs
There was a time when a match-turning contribution from an Ashington fast bowler was commonplace at Durham. Though with Steve Harmison's decline, such days have been had been consigned to the past.
But here Mark Wood, playing only his third Championship match - coincidentally, all have been at Trent Bridge - followed a career-best performance with the bat with a spell of 3 for 11 in 22, with all of his scalps a Test batsman. Describing himself as "a family friend" of Harmison and a product of the same Ashington club, Wood has the rare gift of pace that earmark him as a cricketer of rich potential.
He can bat, too. He defines himself as a bowling allrounder but, earlier in the day, reached his maiden Championship 50 with a pulled six and dominated a last-wicket stand of 71 in only 12.2 overs with Graham Onions. It was a partnership that not only extended Durham's lead to 151 but may well have had a deflating effect on Nottinghamshire's morale.
But on a wicket that has, at times, appeared painfully flat - the return of the heavy roller is far from universally popular among county spectators - it was Wood's incisive bowling that may have had the greatest impact. Wood, by some distance the sharpest bowler on display in this match, belied the easy-paced surface to persuade Ed Cowan to nibble one angled across him, trap James Taylor attempting to play a straight one through square leg, and then, most impressively, have Samit Patel caught off the glove as he tried to deal with a bouncer. It was a spell that cut through the Nottinghamshire top order and provided Durham with an excellent opportunity to claim their second win of the season. Nottinghamshire resume on the final day with half their second-innings batting dismissed and still trailing by six runs.
Such was Wood's contribution, he could well be forgiven for questioning why he has not played more regularly. On his last appearance, here last August, he claimed 5 for 78 to help his team to a 16-run victory, but then found himself dropped for the next game.
"I'm pleased to be here," Wood said afterwards with a smile. "It seems to be the only place a get a game. Of course I was disappointed to be dropped last year. But I understood the reasons. We have a good attack who had done really well so when Ben Stokes came back I missed out. Hopefully this time, if I get a couple more wickets, I can make my case even stronger."
Wood was quick to admit he was building on foundations laid by Will Smith. Smith, who batted for 505 minutes for his 153, blunted the attack at their freshest and the pitch at its most helpful to establish a platform from which the lower-order could build. It paid a higher dividend than even he can have hoped, though, when the last five Durham wickets added 323 runs to the total. He finally fell, caught at mid-on, after he attempted to whip Patel's left-arm spin through midwicket.
"Smith has been the difference between the sides," Wood said. "And he's the reason we're the favourites in this game. He showed great concentration and the work he did made it much easier for me."
While Wood led the way in the last-wicket stand, punching Patel for one lovely four through mid-on and carving Graeme Swann over extra cover for another, Onions also played his part. He thumped one back past Stuart Broad and drove Swann square as Durham kept Nottinghamshire in the field for 157.3 energy-sapping overs.
But it is Wood's bowling that may, in time, be of interest to the national selectors. He is not particularly tall or strong-looking but, from a short, straight run with an unusual start - a pronounced push off his back leg which, he says, is a technique learned from sprinters - he generates impressive, skiddy pace. He can reverse swing the ball, too, and showed an encouraging cricketing brain when talking about his wickets.
"We had just got the ball reversing when Cowan edged that one that left him," he explained. "With Taylor, we put the man behind square for the pull and, when we had him expecting the short ball, I pitched it up. And then with Samit, I hid the ball so he couldn't tell which way it was going to swing and then surprised him by bowling a bouncer."
Gareth Breese, who had already contributed a useful 44, followed up with the wicket of Steven Mullaney - surely the only cricketer with Hooters as a bat sponsor - sharply caught off a fine arm ball, while earlier Alex Hales, back when he should have been forward, lost his middle stump.
Michael Lumb, timing his drives sweetly on either side of the wicket, remains and looks in good touch, but he has a great deal of work ahead of him if Nottinghamshire are to salvage a draw from this game.
At least Nottinghamshire had encouraging news of their England players. Broad bowled with increased pace and purpose on the third day. He finished with his third successive four-wicket haul in successive innings and would not have been flattered by a fifth. Just as importantly, he reported no adverse reaction to his 31 overs and confirmed that he would take a full part, with bat, with ball and in the field, in the remainder of the game.
Swann came through unscathed, too. While he finished without a wicket, he did see two chances go down off his bowling - he was the guilty party on one occasion - and was the most economical of the Nottinghamshire bowlers. Perhaps there were a couple more full tosses than we are used to but, bearing in mind it was his first bowl in competitive cricket since the elbow operation, this was a pleasing return.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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