Fast bowler Mark Wood says he has relished the responsibility on his shoulders for the under-siege England team heading into the final Ashes Test in Hobart.
The day-night match begins on Friday and is England’s last chance to salvage something from the five-Test series.
They are 3-0 down with the Ashes gone after being beaten heavily in the first three Tests in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.
But England restored a little pride in Sydney last week as they fought a rearguard action to cling on for a tense draw on this past Sunday’s final day.
Wood has consistently been the fastest bowler on either side and, in the absence of the injured Jofra Archer, has provided his captain Joe Root with an attacking weapon.
Often injury-prone in the past, Wood said he hadn’t expected to play four Tests but his fitness work had allowed him to keep up his pace.
Wood is England’s second-leading wicket-taker for the series with eight and with a little more luck could have had many more victims with his extra pace consistently troubling Australia’s top order.
“I have worked hard on my fitness and I have had a desire deep down to keep bowling fast and keep running in and to be the only fast bowler here to offer a point of difference,” Wood said. “I’ve got that responsiblity on my shoulders and I’ve actually enjoyed it that I’ve got to keep charging in.
“I’ve got to keep doing that side of things for the team and hopefully I can keep my speeds up for another game.”
Wood’s wickets have three times included the prize scalp of the world’s top-ranked batter, Marnus Labuschagne.
But he brushed off claims that had given him a moral victory over the Australian lineup.
“We’re still getting battered – it would be a moral victory if he was getting out and we were winning,” Wood said. “He’s still contributing to their team winning. They’re still getting more scores than we are and we’re not bowling them out.”
England will not name their team until Friday, giving injured pair Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow as much time as possible to prove their fitness.
“They’re in good spirits so far,” Wood said. “They’ve seemed happy and trained as normal.
“Everyone knows they are carrying niggles and knocks, but everyone knows they are two characters who don’t want to give up easily.
“We’ll just have to see how they pull up in training tonight.”
© Agence France-Presse