It was a wicket worth the wait. After 233 deliveries spread across three Test innings, Mark Wood finally got his reward late on the first day of the second Test in Galle when he dismissed the Sri Lanka captain, Dinesh Chandimal, lbw with a wickedly quick full ball that hit him in front of leg stump.
“I was beginning to feel like it was never going to happen,” Wood said. “Like it could be 2054 and I’d still be bowling from that Fort End and not have a wicket, and I’d have none for 3,000. It’s nice to actually have one. Even if it might just be one for 3,000 now.”
It came at a good time for the team (Chandimal was in the thick of a 117-run stand with Angelo Mathews) and a good time for Wood, too. The selectors have announced he is being rested from the first two Tests of the tour to India, and given that Jofra Archer and Olly Stone will have a free run while he is away he was desperate to make his mark before he goes.
“Obviously you want to play as much as you can, but with Covid I think it’s the right decision to allow people to get away and see families,” Wood said. “If you’re away for the whole tour, 2 January to 28 March, that’s a long time to go without seeing your family, especially in these tough times. So it’s good they’re breaking it up for people and allowing them to refresh. Then when they come back they’ll be raring to go.” At the same time, he is understandably keen to make his mark in the matches he does play.
“I was putting a bit too much pressure on myself. When you’re in and out of the side, and you know there’s people behind you, as well as people in front of you who aren’t here, you want to make an impact. And then when you leave a game with no wickets [he took none for 70 in the first Test] you feel a bit under pressure. So it’s nice to get one on the board. I know it’s not match-winning or a five-for, but it’s a bit of a relief and now I can relax into the game knowing that I’ve contributed.”
Wood has bowled well, and wholeheartedly, in this series, never better than in the eight-over spell he got through with the old ball here, which was the longest he had bowled in a Test. And if he has not had much reward for it, he knows some of his teammates have. “You bowl in tandem. We often talk about that. If I can get the batters’ beans going then they might make a rash shot against the spinners when they’re not enjoying it at my end. It’s not like I want to bowl bouncers all the time, but sometimes it’s about trying to help the guy at the other end.”
Wood says that on this pitch England will need a lot of luck, and a lot of toil from here on in. They can count on him to provide one of those, at least.