Cricket: Mark Wood made ‘grown-up’ decision not to play for England in thrilling ODI

Vithushan Ehantharajah in Mount Maunganui
The Guardian
Mark Wood in action during a fielding drill in an England training session.

Mark Wood made ‘grown-up’ decision not to play for England in thrilling ODI

Mark Wood in action during a fielding drill in an England training session.

A “grown-up decision” is how Mark Wood described withdrawing from the first one-day international against New Zealand. England’s three-wicket defeat in Hamilton leaves them 1-0 down in the five-match series but the Durham quick is not pining for a sharp return, even if he did bowl at full pelt in training on Tuesday, having pulled himself out of the line of duty for what he perceives as his and England’s benefit.

For the first time in an international career starting in the summer of 2015 during which he featured in 10 out of 40 Tests and 27 of 85 limited-overs matches, Wood is putting number one first and is not expected to feature in the second ODI on Wednesday. Having missed more than he has played, the Durham bowler was tempted to throw himself into another fixture when not at full capacity. It is a measure of the man that at a crucial juncture of his career – two Tests against New Zealand and a maiden Indian Premier League campaign on the horizon – he did not.

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“I spoke to [Eoin] Morgan after the day’s training last time and said I was umming and ahhing about it,” Wood said, upon feeling discomfort in a left ankle that has undergone three surgeries. “It was affecting my performance, my accuracy more than anything, with a weakness caused by a bit of a pinch. I was on the fence for ages. I could have gone out there like I have in the past and not do myself justice and let the team down, or make a grown-up decision and say it’s not quite right. I think I made the right decision.”

A precautionary scan on Monday revealed no serious injury. Then again, it is all relative when referring to Wood’s left ankle: one that takes the brunt of his short, explosive run‑up and carries a degree of scar tissue and fluid unfamiliar to his peers. “My ankle will never be a normal ankle because I’ve had that much work in there,” he said. “It’ll probably be a bit of strengthening and some rest.”

He took a full part in the nets , squaring up a handful of England’s squad. Therein lies the danger – Wood has rarely been at full capacity in his international career,even when he has willed himself to operate at a high level.

“I’ve been bowling with ankle discomfort for three or four years now. It’s not like every time I rock up I am 100%. It’s always going to be there, it just becomes an issue when it starts to affect my performance. If I don’t bowl well because it’s not my day or my execution’s not right, I can deal with that. If it’s my ankle that’s causing me trouble it doesn’t feel a true reflection of me, and I don’t want to do that again like I did against South Africa in Tests or Australia at Lord’s. I didn’t bowl very well then.”

He has no ambitions to put himself into the limited-overs-only box that boasts Adil Rashid, Alex Hales and now, through a succession of injuries, Reece Topley. The very assertion has the 28-year-old pushing back.

“Never. I still want to play Test cricket, I love playing four-day cricket for Durham, to me that’s my ultimate goal growing up. I won’t give up that dream anytime soon.”

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