England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 12, 2017

Wood fears the chop as competition for places hots up


Play 01:02
Wood keen to avoid second Test slip-up

England look set to name an unchanged team for the second Test, but the sight of Chris Woakes and Jake Ball back in training suggested selection could become highly competitive before the end of the summer.

Woakes and Ball, who have so far missed out on selection in the series against South Africa due to injury, both enjoyed a gentle bowl at Trent Bridge as England prepared for the second Test that begins on Friday.

While neither are ready to return just yet, Mark Wood - who returned to the side for the first Test at Lord's - admitted he might not have made the side had they been fit, and accepted that the battle for places could become intense when all are available.

Wood's hope is that he can, for the first time in his career, play three Tests in succession in the same series. While he has played four successive Tests, he has only managed to do when there has been a gap of several weeks between series. And he admits that, so concerned was he by the injuries he has suffered in the past, that he thought his Test career might be over.

"It's no secret that I thought Test cricket was probably gone at one stage," Wood said. "One wicket at Lord's might not sound good but I was pleased with how I bowled and it was a proud moment to come back in the Test arena.

"We have bowlers waiting in the wings. Probably if they were fit, I wouldn't have played. Chris Woakes had a great year and it will be interesting to see what happens when he's back playing.

"The challenge becomes to prove to you guys, to my team-mates and the coaches that I can play three in a row. I have to keep these guys out of the team and that's the challenge.

"I feel good, which is rare for me. It's surreal to back games up and not worry but I'm delighted."

Wood, at least, has happy memories of Trent Bridge. Not only did he claim the Ashes-clinching wicket of Nathan Lyon here in 2015 - Lyon tried to leave one but dragged it on to his stumps - but he has claimed 15 wickets in three first-class matches there for Durham, including one of his six five-wicket hauls (5 for 78 in 2012) and one of his two half-centuries (58 not out in 2013). Oddly, his three games there were his first three Championship matches.

"Yes, it's nice to be back here," he said. "When you're struggling, you visualise times when you've done well. This is a ground where I've always done well here, even for Durham. The night before, if I'm selected, I'll be thinking about that and visualising running in."

Wood was delighted to contribute with the bat at Lord's, too. He added 45 for the ninth wicket with Jonny Bairstow in a low-scoring second innings and said he was once described as "the best No. 10 since Pele".

"I slogged it at Lord's, but that was the way to go on that wicket," he said. "When I first got into the Durham team I batted at No. 10 and Jon Lewis, the coach at the time, said I was the best No10 since Pele. I'll take that."

There is a slightly unusual look to the pitch to be used in the second Test. While it is a fresh surface - the same surface that was used for the 2015 Ashes Test in which Australia were bowled out for 60 on the first morning - it has an oddly mottled look, as if it has been used recently. Local knowledge suggests there will be movement and decent carry for the seamers.

Woakes and Ball were not the only familiar faces on view on Wednesday. Paul Franks and Ant Botha, Nottinghamshire's assistant coaches, were also involved - the England camp like to provide opportunities for county coaches to learn from their methods and provide some fresh views as appropriate - while Nottinghamshire's young batch of seamers (notably the distinctly brisk Jack Blatherwick and Matt Milnes) impressed in the nets.

Chris Read spent a while working with fellow keeper Jonny Bairstow and Matt Carter, the 21-year-old offspinner who claimed 7 for 56 on first-class debut in 2015, also bowled in the nets. Kevin Sharp was also part of the coaching team.

Jimmy Anderson did not bowl but the England camp insist he is fine and had simply elected to rest. With 53 wickets in eight Tests at an average of 19.24 at the ground, he will have liked the look of this surface.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on July 13, 2017, 16:52 GMT

    If Woakes is fully fit he needs to be back on the side. He is an exceptional cricketer! He always looks threatening with the ball. He considers himself an all-rounder but only time will tell. In my opinion, he is a better bowler than Wood and even Stokes but not as accomplished with the bat than the latter.

  • mj39168129558 on July 13, 2017, 12:46 GMT

    It was Wood's first Test for 2 years after bad injuries, judge him after the series. Chris Woakes is pretty good like a budget Ben Stokes.

  • John on July 13, 2017, 12:43 GMT

    At this point I'm not sure that Wood makes the side in England if everyone's fit. I'm not in favor of 5 quicks in the side and the top 4 are Anderson, Broad, Woakes and Stokes. Dawson and Ali add balance and as Lord's showed are competent on a wicket offering them something. Australia is another matter. I wouldn't take Anderson on the tour; pace and bounce are what will be needed. It's good to see that selection is an issue because there are several candidates rather than too few. BTW, keep an eye on George Garton. He's a left-arm quick for Sussex, just turned 20 and he bowls over 90mph. He's not ready yet, but he's a strong lad with a good action and if he stays fit in a year or two he'll be a handful.

  • Dave on July 13, 2017, 9:41 GMT

    On pitches that are a seamer's paradise, I cannot see a problem with Moeen as the single spinner, with Stokes used intermittently as a shock bowler . A shame Woakes is still out for Nottingham, but logic dictates him replacing Dawson when fit, unless the pitch on offer at the toss looks a 2nd innings rank turner. The same as it should be in Aussie, apart from Sydney. That line up of five quality quicks is relentless pressure. Btw Cricinfouser, Wood and Stokes (hopefully both fit) are the best England bowlers for Aussie decks. You really haven't seen Wood at his nastiest consistently on a length at 90mph, have you? Maybe you ask Williamson, Warner and Smith who he did for in the ICC what threat he poses? If, of course, he stays injury free, and manages to get on the boat down under...

  • Jason on July 13, 2017, 7:50 GMT

    Its good that there is competition for places as it keeps players on their toes, and also give the team the ability to cover injuries and have players available should conditions arise.

    Wood may do better in SA and Australia with the faster bouncier pitches, he needs to work on getting reverse swing more consistent and he could be in the mould of Simon Jones.

  • Richard on July 13, 2017, 7:14 GMT

    It's all very well saying that Dawson shopuld be left out to make way for Woakes, but then you have five quicks, their only variety being their speeds. It would help if one was left handed, but that is not the case. The side needs a second spinner - Rashid was rather unlucky to be left out at Lord's, especially with the pitch that was used, but Yorkshire were grateful to have his services. So if not Rashid, who ? Dawson was tried. There's Somerset's Leach, but Kerrigan has never got over being mauled in his one and only test. There are several promising slow left armers, but none yet ready for test cricket.

  •   SillyPointer on July 13, 2017, 6:24 GMT

    I really hope they don't overlook Woakes when he's fit because we have so many allrounders. He's a better bowler than Wood and Ball, not to mention a better batsman too. I'm also not sure why Wood seems so hyped, he's quite quick and seems to bowl decently but he simply doesn't take a lot of wickets (never more than 3 in a test innings and an average of over 40 in odi's)

  • jack.f6014551 on July 13, 2017, 5:25 GMT

    I can't be the only one who doesn't get the fuss over Wood. he's quick but not express, late 80s and be bowls far too short to threaten the bat and as a result simply doesn't take enough wickets.

  • Jamie347391 on July 12, 2017, 23:51 GMT

    I like wood a lot and I know he wants to play tests and win the ashes cause who dosen't but I think he should just focus on limited overs at least he can help England wins their first cwc he can put more pressure on his body with less strain from playing test cricket

  • Alex on July 12, 2017, 21:24 GMT

    England can add another weakness to line up along with ballance and dawson and new one is ball. Wood lacked energy in first test and was like dead cadaver england carried and no one said anything. That is good thing for wood. When woakes comes back wood has to go. Anyone based on energy will have up and down game because body energy goes up and down. I think he may have lost his pace and probably never gain. England need another swing bowler not ball. Why against ball? he is a sheep. Not that trustable. But he seems better option than wood at current juncture.

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