Wood clings to Ashes dream after 'stupid' mistake

Mark Wood runs it at Lord's on his return to Test cricket Getty Images

Mark Wood has admitted that a "stupid" mistake led to the heel injury which forced him out of England's Test side and has left him battling to return to action in time to make a final push for the Ashes squad.

Wood missed the final two Tests against South Africa after not replacing the insoles he would normally wear in his bowling boots to help cushion his heel as he hammers down in his delivery stride. Wood has them specially made, but after ripping up a pair of boots following the Champions Trophy he discarded the insoles as well and, during the first Test at Lord's, used an old set which did not have the same protection.

It was during a spell on the third day, as England wrapped up South Africa's first innings, that he first felt the problem but was only required to bowl a single over in the second innings (where he removed JP Duminy for his one wicket of the series) as spin secured victory.

Having battled to regain his Test place for the first time since October 2015 after three ankle surgeries, Wood was desperate not to stand down and admitted to Joe Root shortly before the second Test in Nottingham that he was only about "80% fit". Root left it in Wood's hands to decide if he could "grit his teeth" and get through, with the outcome a wicketless display.

"For me, it's about not being stupid next time and having the right insoles," Wood, who was supporting NatWest's 'Cricket has no boundaries' campaign, told ESPNcricinfo. "I've never had a problem before when I've had the right insoles. It was a bad error on my part which snowballed, and the more I bowled the worse it got.

"We went to Trent Bridge and I could feel it quite bad, but I didn't want to give up my spot. I had an honest conversation with Rooty, I said I was about 80% fit. He said if I thought I could grit my teeth and bear it then play, but in the end I didn't end up doing myself justice. I'd had new insoles by then, but the damage had already been done.

"I do wish I'd made a different decision because things didn't work out, but if I'd taken a few wickets people may not have noticed. Ultimately it's cost me my place and I'm sat on the sidelines and will have to wait my turn again."

Wood, however, has been assured there is no connection between his heel issue and the ankle problems which required multiple surgeries. His current injury is the same as Stuart Broad has suffered in the past - affecting the fat-pad in the heel - and Wood has spoken to Broad about how he manages himself.

Another spell on the sidelines has brought huge frustration for Wood, and he is still not sure when he will return, although he is targeting the end of August when the County Championship resumes.

"It's getting there but it's been slower progress than I would have liked," he said. "I'm not bowling yet, I need to be able to walk on my heels without pain first and have the physio prod and stab me. I don't want to start too soon and set myself back. If I bowl again while it's still bruised, I'll make it worse and I'd start from zero again."

Wood conceded he is "down the pecking order" of England's fast bowlers due to this injury. He was replaced by Toby Roland-Jones, who took a five-wicket haul on debut at The Oval, and Chris Woakes is also fit again. However, Wood hopes his different style - skiddy, explosive pace when everything works in sync as it did during the Champions Trophy - will earn him a spot in the Ashes party.

"Hopefully I can still be an asset in Australian conditions," he said. "I know there are plenty of options for the selectors but I'd like to think I can offer something different being a short, skiddy guy. Hopefully if I can prove my fitness for Durham and get back in the one-day squad [against West Indies] then push for the Ashes. I'm realistic to know I'm down the pecking order now. I've still got a bit to prove but hopefully if I can live up the potential I think I have, I can get on the plane."

Mark Wood was speaking at the launch of NatWest's #NoBoundaries wristbands for Chance to Shine. Find out where to get yours at NatWest.com/noboundaries and watch Mark here