Mark Wood has admitted he is “one of the guys under threat” by the qualification of Jofra Archer as an England player.
Wood has been one of the success stories of England’s tour of the Caribbean. After an explosive return to Test cricket in St Lucia, where he claimed his first five-wicket haul and was timed at 94.6mph, he has bowled with similar pace in the ODIs (touching 91.6mph in the first and 93.9mph in the second) offering his side an edge that has sometimes been lacking.
But Wood, and most of England’s other seamers, know that Archer’s qualification could threaten their hopes of cementing a World Cup spot. Archer qualifies in about a month and, while his selection for the World Cup squad remains unlikely, it is clear his all-round skills and, in particular, his pace with the ball are likely to earn him a significant international career. In the short term, that could end the hopes of one of the seamers in England’s current 15.
“I think I am one of the guys under threat,” Wood said. “Obviously he [Archer] is a world-class performer. I’d be stupid to think that if I didn’t put in the hard yards that my place wouldn’t be up for grabs. He bowls quick as well.
“It is not really talked about in the dressing room or anything like that. I wouldn’t say that night and day I’m up worried about Archer’s role. I’m just going to continue with this bit of confidence I’ve got and half-decent form to push my own case.
“I feel higher in the pecking order in Test match cricket, but I’m not so sure in ODIs. We’ve got such a good squad. I was left out most of the time in Sri Lanka so to come back in and put in two fairly decent performances with the newer ball is pretty pleasing.”
While Eoin Morgan, the England captain, stopped just short of confirming Wood had done enough to cement his place in that World Cup squad – “he’s bowled quickly and accurately,” Morgan said, “which is all you can ask, but there’s a long way to go before selection” – he has certainly done his chances a power of good in recent times.
Having fallen behind a host of other candidates in Sri Lanka – Wood played only one ODI, with Olly Stone among those preferred to him – the rediscovery of the pace that attracted England to him in the first place is likely to prove persuasive. And while he has taken only one wicket in the series so far, his speeds and ability to gain reverse swing have made him look the most dangerous member of the attack.
“I’d have liked a few more wickets,” he said. “My wickets-to-games ratio is still down so I’d like to improve that. I don’t think I have fulfilled the role that I would like to.
“But Joe Root keeps saying little things to me. In the second ODI he said to me ‘well bowled’ after my spell and then he said ‘don’t worry the wickets will come, right now you’re getting wickets for other people.’
“So there is more to it than just me trying to get five wickets every game. I think trying to help people at the other end and creating pressure for others to feed off is what I’ve done well over the past couple of games. I feel like I’ve had decent rhythm. If I keep doing the right things then more wickets will come.”
As thing stand, England’s first-choice opening pair may well be Wood and Chris Woakes. Which means the likes of David Willey – who looks dangerous with the new ball – Liam Plunkett, and Tom Curran could be fighting over the final place in the side.
That presupposes everyone is fit, though. And the decision to rest Woakes from the second ODI underlined both how important England see him to their plans and how fragile his knees have become.
“He could have played but his risk of being injured would have been quite high,” Morgan said. “We don’t have to play two games in three days in the World Cup.”
England’s bowling has not been at its best in this series. They bowled 13 wides in the second ODI to add to the 15 they bowled in the first ODI. They also delivered their first front-foot no ball in 45 ODIs and something like 11,000 deliveries. There were two more no-balls in the second ODI, from deliveries reaching the batsmen above waist height. In a game decided by a margin of 26 runs, such moments were crucial.
“The wides you can forgive,” Morgan said. “But hopefully we’ll see a change in Grenada.”