Mark Wood harnesses ‘nervous energy’ as England seek fast finish to group stage


Mark Wood admitted England had been aware of “a few negatives flying around” in the lead-up to their crucial victory over Oman on Thursday, but said he had harnessed the “nervous energy” to help deliver a statement performance that has got the team’s T20 World Cup back on track.

With nothing less than victory required, Wood proved too hot to handle in his fierce three-over burst against Oman. He struck twice in his opening powerplay over, including a return catch first-ball, and finished with 3 for 12 as Oman were rolled aside for 47 in 13.2 overs.

England’s fate is still not entirely in their own hands despite rushing to their target in just 19 balls, to revive their flagging net run rate. Assuming they overcome Namibia on Saturday, in what will be the first T20I between the two teams, they will still require Australia to beat Scotland 24 hours later to confirm their place in the Super Eight.

But, after a washout in their own match against Scotland, followed by a 36-run loss to Australia in Barbados last week that had left them needing such favours, Wood was delighted with the focussed display that England produced to see off Oman, given the doubts that had been swirling externally about the team’s readiness to defend the title that they won two years ago.

“It feels great,” Wood said. “We had to put a stamp on the game … the table didn’t look great obviously before, but it looks a lot better now. There’s still work to do, but I’m feeling a lot better about things after this game.”

Wood himself had come in for particular criticism during the Barbados leg of the campaign, not least in the Australia defeat where – on a surface that was not suited to raw pace – he was taken apart by David Warner in the powerplay, conceding three sixes and a four in a 22-run opening over.

He came back well from that indignity, conceding just ten runs in his next two overs by resorting to a diet of cutters, but it was not sufficient to rescue England’s position in the contest.

“I’ve been pretty happy with how it’s gone apart from that one really stinking over,” Wood said, having previously been England’s most economical option in the two overs he was able to bowl before the Scotland match was abandoned. “I know I’ve come in for a lot of flak and a lot of stick in the last few days, but I was determined to put on another performance.

“I was probably more pleased with the fact that I came back [against Australia], showed some resilience and actually bought some cutters which isn’t natural to me. Normally I’m just trying to bowl quick so to use some guile and some skill, I was pleased. There were obviously doubts about me keeping my spot, but I’ve been quietly trying to keep my focus to perform for the team.”

Part of that focus, Wood said, had come from working with David Young, the team psychologist who aided England’s 2019 World Cup campaign and who has been brought back to the squad on a consultancy basis from his current role with Manchester City.

“Self-doubt is common for players,” he said. “I was speaking to Youngy about more of the things that I focus on, rather than outcome all the time.

“Of course, you have doubts every game you play for England,” he added. “I don’t think there’s a cricketer who doesn’t have a little bit of self-doubt, but the nerves before the game, that’s what helps people bowl fast as well, because you have that nervous energy, that excitement.

“You want to perform, you’re out there in front of cameras, the millions of people watching, the media, opposition … it’s all judgment, so you’ve got to just remember your focus and what you’re trying to do. In Twenty20 it’s a bit different, isn’t it? You can bowl really well and get whacked, or you can bowl rubbish and get two or three wickets. So, it’s the realisation that you’re doing the right things in your own mind.”

Above all else, Wood was pleased with the ruthlessness of England’s victory over Oman, first with the ball and in the field, and then with the bat during their rapid run-chase. However, the team are still reliant on another display of ruthlessness from Australia against Scotland, if their mini-revival is to count for anything in the qualification stakes.

All the talk in the build-up to the Oman match had centred around Josh Hazlewood’s suggestion that Australia might go easy on Scotland to help knock England out early. Far from being fired up by the notion, however, Wood said the team had taken that suggestion as a compliment, adding that they had no doubts that Australia would be gunning for victory, as ever, on Sunday.

“I think that’s part of being England and Australia, isn’t it?” he said. “I think actually I saw it more as a respect thing, if I’m honest, that he was saying that England have done well against Australia in the recent past and thinks we’re a big threat and a big team, so I have no problem with it.”

He did, however, admit it would be slightly strange to be cheering on Australia in the final group game.

“I know I’m close to the Scottish border [coming from Durham] and Australia and Scotland are England’s rivals… but we’ll obviously be supporting Australia because we’re trying to get through,” he said.

“We have got to show a little bit more and then fingers crossed for Australia. Then when you are through to that next stage every team can go on from there. I’m absolutely confident they’ll play the game their hardest, that’s the Australian way. They’ll play hard and fair and try to get the win.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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