Mark Wood expects a limited Ashes role with England’s depth of bowlers

Mark Wood accepts his role in the Ashes this summer might be limited because of England’s battery of fast bowling options who thrive in home conditions.

Wood was England’s leading wicket-taker Down Under in the 2021-22 series, where he featured in four of the five Tests, routinely unsettling Australia’s batters with his express pace and hostility.

He is a prized asset, especially overseas as his Test average sits at a handsome 24.64 and even though that climbs to 40.71 at home, he has only played five times in England since the start of 2018.

Mark Wood, centre, excelled in Australia in the 2021-22 Ashes series (Darren England via AAP/PA)
Mark Wood, centre, excelled in Australia in the 2021-22 Ashes series (Darren England via AAP/PA)

While five Tests in six and a half weeks and a game beforehand against Ireland means rotation will be paramount, Wood suspects he is not at the head of the queue in England’s arsenal of red-ball quicks.

“I will definitely not play all five Tests,” said Wood, who took the wicket which won England the urn in 2015 – the last time they have beaten their old rivals in a Test series.

“I was delighted to play four out of five Tests in Australia. That was a big tick in my box to say that in a big series I can do it if (captain Ben) Stokes or Brendon (McCullum, head coach) want me to play.

“More than likely the bowling stock we have, especially at home, I probably won’t even play four. (Stokes) might even want me for one or two if they need a pace element.

“He might want to mix it up to keep people fresh but if people are playing well, I might not play any. I very much doubt, from the way they have managed me, I will play four. If they want three or four, I will put my hand up.”

Wood had a hectic schedule pre-Christmas away from his pregnant wife, with separate white and red-ball tours of Pakistan sandwiched in-between a six-week stint in Australia for the T20 World Cup.

He opted out of the New Zealand Test tour as a result but is towards the start of another mammoth stint on his travels, having returned in Bangladesh for ODIs and T20s before the Indian Premier League.

With the birth of his daughter in-between the IPL and the start of the English summer, it is little wonder Wood has given little thought to the Ashes and even though a highly-awaited series against Australia is just over 100 days away, he insisted he will not be bowling within himself until then.

“I’ve never thought about it,” he said. “I’ve done interviews in the past where I’ve said ‘of course I’m thinking about the Ashes in the background’. I’m actually not this time. There’s so much going on before.

“But to be able to spend time at home and sort of not think about cricket for a little bit was really nice. It’s made me hungrier when I’ve come back in.”

Wood has a chequered injury history and missed the entirety of last summer with an elbow complaint and the knockout stages of England’s triumphant T20 World Cup campaign in November due to hip discomfort.

He remains a central figure in all three formats but has appreciated his workload being managed recently, highlighting the influence of Rob Key, managing director of England men’s cricket.

“It sits really well with me,” Wood added. “In the past there have been times I shouldn’t have played and I have.

“The breaks have helped prolong me a bit more than previous years when I’ve tried to play everything.

“I am never going to turn down the chance to play for England. If they want me I will be there and trying my best, but if they decide to rest me, I get it and I’ll be gearing up for the next one.”