Mark Andrew Wood
January 11, 1990, Ashington, Northumberland
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
Ashington High School
It looked, for a while, as if Mark Wood would be another of those fast bowlers who promised more than they delivered.
An apparently relentless succession of injuries - particularly injuries to his ankle - threatened to either end his career or turn him into another fast medium seamer who compromised his pace for a longer career in the game.
But Wood was not to be denied. Abandoning a short run-up that was a characteristic of his career up until the latter part of 2018, Wood instead reasoned a longer approach to the crease would put less pressure on his body and allow him to hit the speeds his early career had promised.
The results were dramatic. Returning to the England team for the final Test of the Caribbean tour in early 2019, Wood claimed a maiden five-wicket haul and generated speeds of around 95 mph in a remarkably hostile demonstration of fast bowling. Scyld Berry, the veteran Telegraph correspondent and a man believed to have seen more England Tests than anyone else, rated it the quickest spell he had ever seen by an England bowler.
There was more to come. Recalled to the ODI side just before the World Cup, he went on to play a huge role in the team's eventual success. With Jofra Archer he traded records for the quickest deliveries of the tournament - both exceeded 95 mph - and, by offering pace and wicket-taking potential in the middle-overs, ensured his captain always had a potent weapon in the field. While Archer finished with more wickets (21 to Wood's 18), Wood finished with the better strike-rate.
Underlining his commitment to the cause, Wood sustained a serious sides strain during the final but, with the match in the balance, continued to bowl at high pace. He was subsequently ruled out of the Ashes series that followed.
Wood never did fit the prototype of a modern England fast bowler. He is skinny, barely 6ft tall and, originally at least, bowled from a sprinter's run-up but after his speed caught the eye with Durham and the Lions, he was given a Test debut at the start of the 2015 summer. He made an instant impression against New Zealand, bowling above 90mph and celebrating wickets with abandon, kept his place for the visit of Australia and capped things off by taking the wicket that sealed England's Ashes victory at Trent Bridge. In no time at all, the imaginary horse that had ridden around the county grounds of England to stave off boredom had become a recognisable part of his England celebration. Here was a fast bowler of unsuppressed vitality.
Like Stephen Harmison, Wood hails from Ashington in Northumberland and played for the same club. The former England quick also encouraged him to go to Australia at 18 to improve his game - not bad advice from a man who suffered bouts of homesickness away from the Northumberland coast. Where Harmison stands 6ft 4in tall, Wood is a level 6ft and delivers a whippier, skiddier ball. In his first five first-class appearances, he took 19 wickets at 21.63, including a match-winning 5 for 78 against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in August 2012.
Paul Collingwood's appetite for promoting and encouraging Durham's younger crop of players worked in his favour in 2013. He had a breakthrough summer, claiming 27 first-class wickets at 24.07 to help Durham to the Championship title and confirm his status as the latest in an impressive collection of homegrown pace bowlers. That strong showing was enough to win recognition on the England Lions tour to Sri Lanka, though it lasted only one match before he returned home with a side injury. His 2014 season was further disrupted by the first appearance of a long-running ankle problem but he was again involved with the Lions at the start of 2015 before being called up to the Test squad for the Caribbean.
He did not get a run against West Indies but was capped in the washed-out ODI against Ireland, picking up his first England wicket, and then replaced Chris Jordan in the Test side for a Lord's debut. Wood thought he had taken the wicket of Martin Guptill in his third over, only for replays to show he had overstepped, but he eventually finished with 4 for 140 as England won a thriller. Further limited-overs involvement followed but England were already aware Wood's workload would need careful managing - he played the first two Ashes Tests but missed out at Edgbaston. James Anderson's side strain allowed him to return at Trent Bridge and he took one of the two wickets not claimed by Stuart Broad as Australia were dismissed for 60. Two days later, the imaginary horse got an outing after Wood took the wicket that secured the return of the urn.
He made a blistering comeback from injury in the second half of 2016, delivering some of the most potent fast-bowling spells of the season as he helped Durham's to the final of the NatWest T20 Blast and also featured in England's 4-1 victory over Pakistan in their one-day international series. But further ankle issues ruled him out of a tour to Bangladesh and he missed India, too, after it was discovered that he bowled at the tail end of the English domestic season when his ankle was fractured. It all meant that he faced a third ankle operation within a year and, however optimistic the prognosis, cast doubts upon the resilience of a player who had won a reputation as England's fastest bowler. His comeback in 2017 was then afflicted by heel problems which limited him to five early-season Championship matches, somewhat down on pace, and saw him lose his England central contract at the end of the season.
Lost England contract or not, England could not resist his potential. He sandwiched a disastrous debut in the IPL (conceding 49 in four overs for Chennai Super Kinds and never seen again) in between Tests in Christchurch and against Pakistan at Lord's, where his average pace of 87mph restated his threat, but his ODI displays were unpredictable and he admitted in Sri Lanka that he was running out of opportunities to claim his place for the 2019 World Cup.
Wood played minor counties cricket for Northumberland from 2008 to 2010 before making his first-class debut for Durham against Durham MCCU in April 2011. He made his List A debut against Northamptonshire in Clydesdale Bank 40 the following month and his first County Championship appearance against Nottinghamshire in August of the same year.
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