After its defeat against India at the Oval in the fourth Test, English pacer Mark Wood believes the English bowlers could take a leaf out of Jasprit Bumrah’s ability to reverse-swing the old ball.
“The way India bowled reverse swing was top-draw, Bumrah in particular. That spell he bowled was outstanding. As a fellow fast bowler you’ve got to give him huge respect. Trying to pick up a few things about how they’ve gone about doing that. The wicket’s ends were particularly abrasive and Jadeja ploughing into the rough for thirty overs would have helped the ball get in that condition to reverse. When we bowled, we may be missed a trick there. We didn’t try to get the ball to reverse. We tried to keep the normal swing when we weren’t getting much movement. That’s something we’ve discussed as a group.”
Adding that it has been hot for the last couple of days in Manchester where pitches are typically dry and abrasive, Wood said that reverse-swing and spin could play a huge role in the match.
“Old Trafford can spin as well. Definitely the spin element will be more of a factor here at Old Trafford,” he said. “Jack Leach has a great chance of playing. India will think hard about him because he did well in India. He is going there with confidence knowing he can get these great players out.”
Wood termed the Indian pace attack as highly skilled and said that the combination of pace, and different angle and actions that the array of pacers brought made the line-up more lethal.
“It still flabbergasts me a little bit the way that Bumrah can bowl off five steps and it’s 90 miles an hour,” he added.
Wood also termed the Indian batting order as a world-class unit and said that Virat Kohli is one of the toughest players he has ever bowled at in any format.
“Rohit Sharma has been brilliant. He is tough to bowl at in any conditions. KL Rahul has left the ball well early and played beautifully once he’s set in. The openers are two big wickets for us,” he added.
In a struggling batting-order that has almost single-handedly been anchored by captain Joe Root series in the series, Wood said that building partnerships would be key leading into the fifth Test.
“It is not about individuals getting massive runs. It is more about putting up a team performance to get us to a total where we can put Indian players under pressure. We’ve done well in parts in this series with the bat so it’s not all doom and gloom. All our players in the top seven can get big hundreds for England,” he said.
He added that the team was looking to curb the tendency of losing wickets in clusters and conceding the key moments and passages of play that have cost the team dearly so far.
While India’s lower order has been pivotal in leading the team’s resurgence in both victories at Lord’s and the Oval, England’s contribution lower down the order has been far from adequate.
“We’re working hard in the nets, especially the tail-enders because we know, looking at India, when you get lower-order runs it helps the whole team, it lifts the mood in the camp. It is important that the whole line-up contributes,” Wood said.
“It is frustrating when the tail-enders get runs. We’ve been widely talked about at Lord’s where we got the plans wrong. I feel we should be able to get tailenders out no matter what the plan is. So that is something I need to put right when I bowl again.”
The right-arm pacer said that getting early wickets was important to ensure that the tail doesn’t wag because once the bowlers are deep into their overs, it becomes easier to bat.
Wood, who suffered a shoulder injury during the second Test, said that he was fit to play the fifth and final Test if selected.
“Rehab has been slower that I wanted. When we came to the Oval, I was able to bowl and bat. But the thing I was struggling with was to throw. But at the end of this game, it’s slowly and slowly got better,” he said.
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