Mark Wood’s return to the England lineup has boosted the attack but the pace bowler’s usage is a cause for concern, says Nasser Hussain.
The Durham quick, he was clocking up 150km/h with ease on a relatively slow St George’s Park pitch, is enjoying a welcome return to the game.
Out since the World Cup and returning to first-class cricket after a near year-long absence, Wood has been tasked with roughing up the Proteas.
‘When you’re bowling bouncers all the time it does take a lot out of you,’ said Wood, who got Zubayr Hamza down the leg after a hostile piece of fast bowling.
‘With not much happening my job was to be aggressive and bowl much shorter. There wasn’t a lot happening when you pitched it up through the air, so we tried to go short, and also with the round the wicket we were trying to create rough for the off-spinner.’
Hussain though raised questions about the tactic.
‘It’s the one thing I’d be slightly critical of Joe Root of is his using of Mark Wood,’ he said.
‘He’s gone to him as an enforcer. It’s fair enough against Hamza because I think Hamza has an issue off his hip, twice in this series caught behind down the leg-side, and I think he may well get Philander out with short stuff, but he’s a better bowler than just the enforcer, bang it in billy.’
When Wood came onto bowl again the over after, his sixth in succession, Hussain had more criticisms, pointing to a pattern of England overworking their fastest bowlers.
‘He’s managed to convince the skipper to give him one more. This is where Joe Root has to be careful with his quicker men. Jofra Archer a little bit bowled into the ground in New Zealand, ended up bowling the most overs, he’s now got a bit of an elbow issue.
‘Mark Wood here, history of injuries, just coming back from an injury, hasn’t played a first-class game in nearly a year, hasn’t played any games since the World Cup final. This is his sixth over on the bounce, just for the sake of one wicket. At times Root has to look at the bigger picture, make sure that his fast man isn’t being bowled into the ground or ready to snap.
‘You’re going to have to look after him because fast bowlers are like gold dust. They don’t just come around and you have to look after them. But you have to balance that with the skipper who wants to win a series in South Africa and a bloke, and you listen and he’s one of the loveliest blokes we’ve ever met. He’ll do whatever the team wants him to do all day long.’