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Luke Wood returns to Edgbaston as Finals Day's Denominator

Lancashire seamer is back for his sixth Finals Day in seven years

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
15-Jul-2022
Luke Wood roars in celebration  •  Getty Images

Luke Wood roars in celebration  •  Getty Images

Superheroes and supervillains come in various forms and have various monikers. There is The Terminator and The Exterminator and probably many others, most of them attached to seriously dreadful films.
Luke Wood's performances for the three counties he has represented on Finals Day have often been rather heroic and he has been at Edgbaston for English cricket's biggest hogfeast for five successive years from 2016 to 2020. So with due acknowledgement to Lancashire's physio, Sam Byrne, residents in south-west Birmingham should know that coming on Saturday to a cricket ground near them will be…The Denominator.
It is a wonderfully low-key name for one of the county game's most high-voltage cricketers. Watch Wood steam in to bowl deliciously laser-guided bouncers at well-set openers and you might think that he has more in common with Ted Hughes' hawk. His manners are also tearing off heads.
On Saturday, though, Wood will discipline the formidable skills that have already earned him an England one-day call-up this season, although not yet an international appearance. (He might just as well have spent his week in the Netherlands going round the Rijksmuseum.) Wood will play in the morning semi-final, hoping that the first time a T20 Roses match takes place on Finals Day is also the prelude to Lancashire's appearance in the evening.
Supporters from Manchester and its surrounds know all too well that losing that opening game is like being thrown out of a party before the decent booze arrives. Wood has had similar experiences; he was in the Nottinghamshire team that seemed certain to beat Worcestershire in 2019, only to lose the game in a final over no-one quite believed.
"Losing that game was hard but a lot of learnings came out of it," Wood told ESPNcricinfo. "And it's important to remember that it's not always about the last ball and one player. It can also be about saving that one run in the field at a point in the game when you can't know what the consequences of that will be."
Wood's experience of five Finals Days - although he was simply a Nottinghamshire squad member for the first two - may be useful in helping the younger members of Lancashire's team cope with English cricket's longest day. For example, it is impossible, useless and probably debilitating to try to maintain anything like the same level of concentration throughout the day, even if victory in the first game affords you such an opportunity. Ian Bell was wont to play nine holes' golf at his local course but Wood's approach is a little more conventional.
"If you want to go back to the hotel, you can, but most players stick around, have some food and watch the other game for a bit," he said. "Not everyone will want to watch more cricket but you can always take things out of the second semi: how the pitch is deteriorating, for example, or how people are playing. There isn't a massive turnaround between the semi-final and the final but it's a long day if you're there from the build-up to the first semi-final to the end of the final. You can only stay in the changing-rooms until you get chucked out."
There are, however, two new elements to Finals Day this year. The first is that the event is being tightly sandwiched between two rounds of County Championship matches. On Thursday evening Lancashire, Yorkshire and Somerset were all involved in tightly-contested four-day games. It is, as it were, rather more than 110 miles between the idyllic surroundings of Trafalgar Road, Southport, the venue for Lancashire and Somerset's match, and Edgbaston. Hampshire had the slight advantage of having beating Gloucestershire quite early on Thursday.
"We'll go down to Edgbaston on Friday and have a training slot," said Wood. "Some people will have played in the game at Southport, so if they feel they need to do some white-ball training, they will and if others need a break, they'll probably get one. People will simply get what they need ahead of the big day on Saturday."
The other problem is that a clash with England's ODI series against India means Lancashire will be without Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone, two of six players who are unavailable for their respective counties on Saturday. Matt Parkinson and Phil Salt have been released to play but the schedule gives a clear impression that the Blast's showpiece occasion has been devalued - something that cannot be said of the Hundred, which has been given a window for its own knockout stages in early September.
The question of the England players is an interesting one," Wood said. "I imagine that before Finals Day they'll know the team for Sunday's One-Day International at Emirates Old Trafford and I want the best for all the Lancashire players in the England team. But if they're not playing for England, they're certainly big players for us. So on the one hand, you want them back; on the other, you want them to play well for England.
"It's tough one because it doesn't affect every county. The chief ones have been Yorkshire, Surrey and Lancashire this year, but at least it does show the depth of our squad. On the other hand, it's a bit of a shame because supporters might say their team has lost big games because they didn't have certain players available. We'll never moan about not having players available, we'll just put out the best team we can and try and win every game. But that may not be an outsider's perspective on it. The fans may not be happy that you're losing X, Y and Z but that's the way it is."

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications