England’s fastest bowler Mark Wood appears a major doubt for next Thursday’s first Test against Pakistan, but Ben Stokes is confident the team he sends out will not be undercooked after playing just 156 overs of practice cricket.
England decided to not play the third day of their warm-up match against the Lions in Abu Dhabi, settling for one day of batting and one of bowling, and instead opting for a non-compulsory two-hour training session. Most players showed up, and there was decent intensity in the nets and middle practice.
Skipper Stokes has played no part in the match, preferring instead to build up in the nets and gym after a gruelling T20 World Cup campaign.
“At the end of yesterday we went around our group and we asked where everyone was at and what they felt like they needed,” said Stokes. “Sometimes with the warm-up games you can get into the last day of that and it becomes a thankless task, and don’t get out of it what you really wanted to. I thought the first two days was really good.
“It’s all about peaking at the right time and the message at the start of the camp was to build-up towards two days before that Test and still have something left in the tank to get going because you don’t want to burn yourself out now and almost be ready a week too early.
“I looked at this fixture here in particular and honestly thought I’d get more out of these three days training. Getting my bowling workloads back up again after having a break after the World Cup in particular. I like working on my skills in the nets rather than being out there in the middle.
“I’ve really benefited from these three days definitely and just because I’ve missed this game I don’t feel like I’ve missed a trick or feel underprepared. We’ve still got three days out in Pakistan to prepare for the first Test
“We’re a group where we like to give the individuals what they want to do rather than forcing them into doing something, but letting them take care of themselves because they all know what they need to be ready for that first Test.”
Also absent were two other World Cup winners, Wood and Harry Brook, who were given a week at home to break up three months of touring Pakistan, Australia, then Pakistan again.
Wood missed the latter part of the World Cup with a hip injury and, despite now recovering – Stokes described him as “coming on nicely” – it appears unlikely to play the first Test in Rawalpindi as he will not have bowled sufficient amounts in preparation. He and Brook will have three days to prepare after flying on Saturday.
At least one debut certain in series opener
Concerns about Wood do not seem to extend beyond the first Test, with Stokes confirming that there would be no additional call-ups from the Lions group. Rehan Ahmed was promoted on Wednesday, but the likes of Matt Potts will now return to the UK.
With doubts over Wood an extra complication, the make-up of England’s XI is unclear, but at least one debut seems certain, with spin bowling all-rounders Will Jacks, Liam Livingstone and Ahmed all jostling for position. Livingstone has been carrying with an ankle injury, while Stokes confirmed he is “absolutely” ready to throw Ahmed into the side.
Wood’s absence denies England a point of difference, but they do have the pace of Jamie Overton to turn to if required, as well as James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Stokes. The captain said England have very little idea what to expect from pitches in a country they have not played for 17 years.
“We are not reading too much into the Australia-Pakistan series, because we don’t know it’ll be like that,” he said. “If we get there and it looks dry, and it might spin. We have heard some comms that it might be green, nippy wickets. We need all bases covered, and to wait and see.”