By Steven Jones
England have had a week to reflect on their astonishing Ashes victory and, whatever transpires during the Fifth and final Investec Test at The Kia Oval, will lift the famous urn.
But does that mean any quarter will be ceded to an Australia team that has been handed back-to-back defeats inside three days in the Midlands.
Not a chance, according to Mark Wood, the man who splintered Nathan Lyon’s stumps in Nottingham to finally confirm England’s innings victory.
Just as the celebrations were starting to wind down last weekend, the energetic and genial fast bowler’s phone received a call from his captain Alastair Cook.
“Cooky rang me the day after the Trent Bridge win to make sure that we were focused on making it four [victories in the series],” he said with a grin.
“I think that’s very important because if it was the other way round I know the Aussies wouldn’t let up. We can’t go into this game thinking that it’s going to be an easy ride to the celebrations.
— Mark Wood (@MAWood33) August 8, 2015
“We’re buoyant, we’re 3-1 up and we’re in a great position. I don’t think anyone would’ve quite thought we’d be in the position we’re in. Confidence is high but we won’t be complacent.”
England’s pace attack has taken advantage of favourable swinging, seaming conditions in recent weeks, with James Anderson, Steven Finn and Stuart Broad all recording crucial five-wicket hauls.
But Wood – joking with typical self-deprecation that he is “under pressure” as the only one yet to grab a five-for yet – is not expecting quite so much assistance at The Oval.
“The game I played here for Durham wasn’t great for the seamers, it was a spinner’s wicket,” explained the 25-year-old.
“We managed to get the win, which is always great when you come away from home and get the win in the County Championship. I have good memories of winning here but not so much bowling and I’ll look to put that right this game.
“It looks like there is a little bit of grass on the pitch at the minute so it might seam around a bit. Traditionally The Oval bounces a bit more than at other grounds, a sort of tennis ball like bounce, and I need all the bounce I can get only being five-foot 11-inches tall.”
Wood can regularly be seen in conversation with Anderson and he said England’s record wicket-taker has been a hugely supportive figure during his first year with the team.
As well as adding further weapons to Wood’s already considerable arsenal, Anderson’s 413-wicket know-how has been a calming influence when he is at the top of his delivery stride.
“Jimmy has been brilliant,” he added. “He’s talked about wobble seams and things like that, which isn’t something I’ve done before. But also he’s been talking about little things to do with my swing and not trying too much.
“A criticism in the last few games is that I’ve perhaps tried to much and tried too hard, whereas the spells where I’ve bowled well I’ve just settled in and just let it happen naturally. I think that’s what I’ve got to go with in this game.”
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