When Mark Wood dismissed Dinesh Chandimal on the opening afternoon of the Second Test at Galle, it was clear that the overriding emotion was not joy, but relief. He leant back to appeal, then slumped forward when Kumar Dharmasena’s finger went up.
Wood was in the third over of what would become an epic eight-over spell on a roasting hot day, and his 39th of the series. Until then, he was wicketless, despite performing admirably throughout, roughing up opponents with his pace, which hovered above 90mph, and fooling them with reverse swing.
“A lot of relief, I felt I bowled decent in the first game and a good spell in this game,” said Wood. “I was making a joke to Jon Lewis, the bowling coach, saying 'we could be here in 2054 and i'd still be bowling from that Fort End, not have a wicket and be nought for 3,000. It's nice to have one for but it might be one for 3,000 now.
“I was maybe putting a bit too much pressure on myself, because when you’re in and out of the side, trying to cement your place and you know there’s people behind you, people in front of you who aren’t here. I didn’t play much in the summer so I wanted to try to make an impact. Leaving the game with no wickets, you feel a bit under pressure.
“So it’s nice to get one on the board. I know it’s not match winning or five-fer, I’ve got a long way to go. But it’s a relief and I can relax a bit into the game knowing I’ve contributed at least.”
Wood will fly home with Sam Curran and Jonny Bairstow to rest after this Test, so has thrown himself into the action.
“My head got redder and redder on the screen, that probably told you how knackered I was,” he said of his afternoon spell.
Sri Lanka reached stumps on 229-4, with Angelo Mathews 107 not out and honours about even on a flat pitch. James Anderson picked up England’s first three wickets in a masterful display, giving he and Stuart Broad combined figures of 45-24-58-6 for the series. Wood was full of praise for the pair.
“They’re literally a class above,” he said. “They never miss their length, their skill level is through the roof. I almost can’t believe at times how good they actually are, until you’re up close to them. They’re constantly communicating, constantly trying to help, little things tinkering. Trying to get people out but at the same time giving them nothing. They’re just world class aren’t they? No other way to put it.”