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Mark Wood set to replace injured Tymal Mills against South Africa

Wood comes through training unscathed after ankle issue that has kept him out of tournament

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Mark Wood in conversation with England head coach Chris Silverwood  •  ICC/Getty Images

Mark Wood in conversation with England head coach Chris Silverwood  •  ICC/Getty Images

Mark Wood looks set to replace Tymal Mills in the England team for their final T20 World Cup Super 12s fixture against South Africa on Saturday after coming through Thursday's training session in Sharjah unscathed.
Wood reported a niggle in his ankle after England's final warm-up game against New Zealand, which required an injection, and has not played any part in the tournament to date. He did not warm up with the rest of the squad ahead of Monday's 26-run win over Sri Lanka, during which Mills picked up the thigh injury which has ruled him out of the tournament, and is likely to play against South Africa this weekend if he trains as planned on Friday.
Paul Collingwood, England's assistant coach, said that Wood represents an "ideal replacement" for Mills if he is declared fully fit, particularly given the low bounce of Sharjah's pitches since the square was relaid ahead of this year's IPL.
"What seems to have been difficult to play in Sharjah is the real fast, skiddy bowlers that bash the wicket from about eight metres and try to hit the top of the stumps and get a little bit of variable bounce there," Collingwood said. "If Woody was 100% fit then he's the type of bowler you would look for on that surface.
"It did seem to make it a lot more difficult when the dew came down, I have to say. I was expecting a lot more variable bounce in that second innings but the dew certainly had an effect on the wicket. Woody would be the ideal replacement if he was 100% fit. As long as he comes through these next two sessions, I'd hope he'd be available for selection."
Mills was expensive in England's last two games against Australia and Sri Lanka but remains their joint-highest wicket-taker in the World Cup to date, and offered an attractive combination of a left-arm angle, high pace through the middle overs, and a world-class record bowling at the death in franchise leagues. He has been replaced in the squad by Reece Topley, the tall left-arm seamer.
"It's a big loss," Collingwood said. "It looked an innocuous kind of injury, really, so it's a huge loss in terms of the point of difference that it gives, obviously the left arm angle. He can bowl at 90mph+ and has got some great T20 experience under his belt with franchise cricket that he's played, so it's a huge loss for us, but another person's gain with Reece Topley coming into the side - again, [he offers a] left-arm angle and has got more height than most bowlers.
"We'll see where the guys are over the next 48 hours in terms of training. Stats right from the start of T20 cricket show that the left-arm angle goes pretty well in the back end of the innings, so it's always good to have that option. We're a very versatile attack - with different heights, different skills, different angles. The more bowlers that you can have that are different I guess the better, so batters can't line you up as a bowling attack. We do have options."
If Wood is not risked ahead of two knockout games next week, England's alternatives would be David Willey, Tom Curran and Topley, all of whom offer different skillsets. The current balance of their side - with only three seamers - forces them to bowl at least eight overs of spin, and their experiences trying to defend a score with a wet ball against Sri Lanka may tempt them to consider leaving out a batter in favour of a fourth seamer.
Collingwood also said that the England squad were "keeping a close eye" on developments in Azeem Rafiq's allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire, and stressed the importance of ensuring their dressing room was "a place that everyone wants to be".
"Obviously we've seen it in the news," he said. "Of course, when something as big as this is in the news, you have a chat about it. From our point of view, it's important that what we've created in the England dressing room over the last few years with our culture… we've done a lot of work in our dressing room to make it a place that everyone wants to be.
"There's an ongoing investigation back home so I can't comment too much on that but we've just got to get on with the cricket out here… hopefully we can let the cricket do the talking. We've really worked hard over the last few years on the courage, respect and unity that we have in the dressing room and that's a motto that we live by. [We need to] keep trying to learn, understand and get better."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98