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Mark Wood steps up to make World Cup case

Tough gig as fast bowler becomes next to press his claims for selection on batsman-friendly pitch

Mark Wood during England practice, England v Pakistan, 4th ODI, Trent Bridge, May 16, 2019

Mark Wood during England practice  •  Getty Images

So now it's Mark Wood's turn to try and impress.
He's watched from the sidelines as all the other seamers contending for that World Cup squad have, to greater or lesser extents, taken their chance. He's seen Jofra Archer cement his place at The Oval, David Willey deliver three nerveless death overs in Southampton, Tom Curran claim five wickets (and score an unbeaten 47) in his two ODI chances, Liam Plunkett claim eight in four and Chris Woakes bounce back from a tricky winter to see out the game in Southampton and claim four wickets in Bristol.
He knows nobody else has ruled themselves out. He knows he's under a little bit of pressure to rule himself in.
He could have been given an easier place to stake his claim, too. Trent Bridge has become arguably the highest scoring ground in the world in ODI cricket. With a belting wicket, a fast outfield and not especially long boundaries, the two highest totals in ODI history - 481 for 6 and 444 for 3 - have both been made here by England since the last World Cup with Pakistan the unfortunate victims in 2016. Partly for that reason, scorecards printed for sale at the ground during the World Cup will go up to 500. Bowlers must regard the place much the way chickens view the abattoir.
"Who'd be a bowler?" Wood says with a wry smile.
Anyone who saw Wood bowl in the Caribbean may wonder why his place in the squad is in any doubt at all. He bowled with such well-controlled hostility on that tour that his World Cup and Ashes place looked secure.
But, alas, the ankle problems that plagued his career came back to haunt him. This time the problem - the potential problem - was caught early ("I had a scan that showed a little deep bone bruising," he says, "which can turn into a fracture") and he was rested before incurring any serious damage. But he goes into this ODI having not bowled a ball in anger for more than two months. He doesn't know how fast he will bowl. Nobody does.
For that reason, Wood has a bit to prove in Nottingham. If he can recapture the pace he demonstrated in the Caribbean, he is a certainty for the World Cup squad. But if he can only generate something in the mid-80s - the pace that saw him dropped during the Sri Lanka tour - he slips back into the pack awaiting Tuesday's announcement with some nerves. It's worth remembering, too, that had Olly Stone not sustained a stress fracture, Wood would not have been here at all. He was only called into the squad in the Caribbean as a replacement.
"I'll have to push my case in the next two games," Wood says. "I've been doing double spells in training. Normally I'd bowl five or six overs in the nets, but I've been bowling 12 on training days trying to get my workload up. But every time I've tried to get a match in it's rained."
In the best case scenario, he offers England an impressively potent attack. For the opening pair anticipated to be used on Friday - Wood and Archer - may well be the quickest England have ever had. Both have been timed at somewhere around 95 mph.
Certainly Wood has been impressed by Archer and accepts that "it looks like one [of the other seamers] will miss out.
"I fully expect Jofra to be in that World Cup squad," Wood said. "He is right up there with the best in the world for pace, so it will be interesting to bowl alongside him. I couldn't believe how far back Jos Buttler stood to him at The Oval. It will be interesting to see how far back the keeper stands for me; they'll probably think I'm bowling 70 mph.
"There's competition for places. By no means do I think I'm over the line or in that team. I'll be judged by how quickly I bowl and whether I can get wickets.
"I have to put every ounce of effort in to bowl fast and Jofra seems to do it so easily. Which is a bit frustrating. He has natural, raw pace whereas I feel I have to bust a gut to get it up there. It's just so natural and that's exciting for English cricket. He swings it into the right-hander and away from the left, too, which is good in ODI cricket.
"But it will be good to have two pace lads in at the same time to see if we can really ruffle a few feathers."
England look set to play their full-strength batting line-up in the final game at Leeds, but the debate over the final bowling line-up continues. The selectors have resisted the temptation to call up Liam Dawson - it is understood there has been no conversation about it since the Bristol match - but he remains - just about - in contention for the World Cup squad.
It also remains possible that the balance of that 15-man squad could be altered. While the team management maintain that including seven seamers (including Ben Stokes) would be unnecessary, they also accept that the reserve seam strength looks stronger than the reserve spin strength.
The failure to bowl their 50 overs within the allocated 3.5 hours in Bristol - Eoin Morgan misses Friday's game through the subsequent suspension - provided a reminder of the need for another spinner, though, with David Willey perhaps the most vulnerable of the seamers after a couple of expensive new ball spells. Wood will be hoping to make the selectors' job even more demanding over the next few days.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo