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Mark Wood relishes England workload as new regime bears fitness fruits

Fast bowler still pushing the speed gun as careful management extends injury-free spell

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Mark Wood has had something of a reputation as a glass man during his six-year international career, such has been his fragility and susceptibility to injury - so it might be surprising to learn that, in the current era of rest and rotation, he is the England seamer with the most appearances to his name since the start of 2021.
Even more so after Wood endured his frustrations with selection last year, playing just one Test during the summer and then being overlooked during the T20Is in South Africa. But since then, he has proved himself a man for all formats, featuring 12 times across Test, ODI and T20I cricket. Only Sam Curran, who classes as an allrounder, has played more games (13) and only James Anderson, a Test specialist, has bowled more overs (174.2 to Wood's 155.5).
Wood's run includes playing back-to-back Tests in Sri Lanka and featuring in four T20Is out of five in India. He started the home summer with England by playing consecutive Tests against New Zealand at Lord's and Edgbaston and featured in the opening two T20Is against Sri Lanka before being rested for the third. Throughout that time, not only has he remained fit, he has regularly posted speeds in the region of 93mph/150kph.
Speaking ahead of the ODI series against Sri Lanka, which begins at Wood's home ground of Chester-le-Street on Tuesday, he said that "good communication" with the England management and a more mature approach to dealing with the aches and pains of fast bowling was behind his increased durability.
"Yeah, I feel good, I've strung a few games together, kept my pace up during the Tests and then into the T20s. I've backed up a lot of games now, the most since 2020-21 among the squad. If can contribute to winning games, that's what it's all about. That's the bowler I want to be, if I'm taking wickets I want to take important wickets - that's the key.
"I just played back-to-back [Tests] versus New Zealand, played back-to-back in Sri Lanka. So to people who have doubted that, I have come a long way with the physical side of things. My routine, the strength coach, nutrition, bowling coach ... I'm older and more mature now to say when my body isn't quite feeling right, not just pushing through to play another game. Good communication has led us down this path where I have played back-to-back Test matches, back-to-back T20 - I was rested for the last one, not injured. If I can keep that going I'll be happy."
Given there is a danger that Wood's cutting edge might be blunted by overwork, three ODIs against Sri Lanka right on the outer orbit of the 2023 World Cup cycle might have represented a timely opportunity for a rest. Among England's three out-and-out quick bowlers, he is currently the last man standing, with Jofra Archer in rehab after his latest round of elbow surgery and Olly Stone ruled out for the summer by a back stress fracture.
But Wood, who has dealt with numerous injury setbacks including three major ankle operations, is keen to remain in harness - not least because of the pride he has at representing his country back in the north-east. "I have to contain myself a bit around the lads or they will take the Mickey out of me but I love coming back," he said. With four wins and five defeats in the World Cup Super League so far, England could also do with the points.
"I've missed so much cricket that playing any format for me is really special. As bowlers we're rested and rotated to be fresh. But in this format we have to make sure we're winning games, otherwise when it comes to that World Cup we could be in a tough group. Any game for England is important, I'm thankful that I'm involved in this squad. At the end of your career you don't look at the games you were rested for, you look at the games you played.
"I'm sure the other two lads will be back," he said of England's injured quicks. "I've been through a few problems myself and it's never nice. I really feel for Stoney because during the [Edgbaston Test], he mentioned to me that his back was a little bit stiff and I didn't think it was anything worse than just stiffness. To see he's got a stress fracture again is really sad for him. Jofra has had his surgery and is coming back and I'm sure, the kind of guy he is, the determination he's got - and he is a naturally fit guy anyway - he will be back with a bang."
There's no doubt that Wood remains a glass-half-full kind of cricketer, and he was upbeat about the challenge of taking on Sri Lanka, despite the tourists' insipid displays while going down 3-0 in the T20Is, and the fact they have lost the services of three senior players over a breach of Covid-19 protocols.
"I have been surprised [by the T20I performances], they have some top players," Wood said. "When I was growing up, they had some of the greatest names in the game. Maybe it is a side that is transitional a bit but they still have some very good players. They beat us in the World Cup recently in 2019. We were heavy favourites for that game and we lost so we can't drop the ball here.
"We pride ourselves on our performance so as long as we are doing our things right, keeping our intensity high, that's what it's all about."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick