Mark Wood has long been considered the ace up England’s sleeve when it comes to seriously fast bowling, the one man who can regularly record 90mph, whose run-up has opposition batsmen shifting back in the crease a few inches and tightening the strap of their helmet.
In the early days of this World Cup, however, Wood is finding himself matched and even out-paced by one of his own team-mates. His return to fitness has collided with the international eligibility of Jofra Archer to make one of the most potent bowling attacks in the one-day game.
The two have been gently egging each other on, with Archer recording average speed of 90.7mph against Bangladesh in Cardiff, while Wood ripped out the fastest ball of the competition so far at 95.6mph.
“It’s exciting and frustrating because he makes it look so easy,” said Wood, of bowling with Archer. “I have to nearly break my back to get it as fast as him and he’s got no problems cranking it up.
“ He adds something slightly different to me because it looks like effortless pace and it surprises people at how quick he is. Couple that with the bounce and the movement he gets and he seems to have all bases covered.
“As for myself I’m a bit more skiddier with it so we complement each other and it is great to bowl in tandem with him. The opposition batsmen don’t get a break if there is pace from both ends and it’d be nice if we can continue that trend.”
The dual threat is changing the way teams play against England; no more can opposition pick and choose the bowlers to attack. The ball comes at them fast, from the start, and in the modern 50-over game where defending is not an option, that brings unabating pressure.
“When real pace bowling is on show it definitely ruffles a few feathers and change the momentum of the game,” said Wood. “At times it might not even get wickets for you but it gets wickets for other people and I know Moeen [Ali] talks about how people play him slightly differently because of me and Jofra.
“Jofra helps me get wickets too because in the past I was probably the guy that England were looking for to produce those speeds and having Jof there takes a bit of pressure off. There is no respite from us so they have to go after one of us and that is bringing wickets towards others, so as a unit things are going well.”
Next up for England is a trip to the Rose Bowl in Southampton and a stiff test against West Indies, who themselves have assembled an firey attack reminiscent of their heyday. It is an opponent Archer knows well, having grown up in the Caribbean.
“With Jofra having those links I’m sure he’ll be desperate to prove himself against the West Indies, but he’s so cool and laid back that he’ll probably just take it as another match.
“Nothing seems to faze him and each new challenge he’s come up against he has thrived so I think we’ll both be looking forward to the match.”