Mark Wood is nearing full fitness and is keen to reignite his speed-gun rivalry with Jofra Archer on England’s tour of South Africa.
Durham paceman Wood has not played since the Cricket World Cup final in July, having powered through a side strain to bowl at 95 miles per hour and help his country win the trophy.
The 30-year-old, who also underwent knee surgery during his time out, bowled 35 overs last week and said he will be ready for the third Test in Port Elizabeth, though he could be held back until the final match in Johannesburg.
When he does return, and with James Anderson ruled out for the rest of the series due to a rib injury, Wood wants to resume his competition with Archer.
“I do like the idea of the two of us operating together in a Test match,” said Wood. “As long as he’s not at mid-off asking me if I’m just warming up when I’ve bent my back.
“Playing alongside him did spur me on so maybe it will help. We have a friendly rivalry over the speed gun. In the World Cup when I put one up on the speed gun that was quite quick I’d just look over to Jofra and give him a little wink. Then he’d do the same to me.
“In the World Cup final I knew that I’d pipped him. I was clocked at 95.7 miles per hour and he was 95.6 miles per hour and as we came off the field and into the dressing room I was dying to tell him.
“I said to him as he walked in, ‘Jofra, I’ve got you! I’ve done you on the speed gun!’ and he strolled past fresh as a daisy and looked me up and down with an ice pack on my side, an ice pack on my knee and an ice pack on my ankle and just said, ‘Yeah, but I think I’d rather be me.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, fair enough mate’.
“Deep down he’s trying to prove that he’s the meanest, toughest fast bowler out there. And so am I. We both want each other to do well, but we both want to be the quickest guy on show. But he’s more talented than I am.”
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 11, 2020
Wood believes Archer and Chris Woakes are ahead of him in the pecking order but finally feels comfortable with his position in the squad.
“I’m not even in the team at the minute but I feel much happier within myself,” he says. “I feel I’m an England cricketer rather than just someone that’s always pushing to try and get into the team. I feel a slightly different cricketer to what I did before.
“I have the World Cup and the St Lucia Test [when Wood claimed his maiden five-wicket Test haul] under my belt. The West Indies was a huge trip for me. I really felt I was in the last chance saloon; I’d had a lot of injuries.
“I have felt that if I get fit then there’s no reason why I can’t do that again. The St Lucia Test is lodged in my mind as one of the best days I’ve had. If I can replicate that I’ll be pretty happy.
“And confidence is a massive thing. Now I know that I can do it. There’s been games where I’ve played for England where I shouldn’t have played and that’s affected my record and my confidence.
“With those good performances and having some success under my belt, it means that I can go into rehab knowing how it feels when it’s good.
“It’s not just potential now. I know I can perform. I know now I can deliver if called upon.”