Ashes 2023 – Mark Wood in fine form despite just three overs on day four, England claim

England insist Mark Wood is perfectly fit to bowl despite holding him off until Round 33 of Australia’s chase on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the Kia Oval, while Australia believe they have worn down England bowlers with their batting approach throughout this Ashes series. .

Wood, who has 13 wickets at 20.38 in the three Tests he has contested in this series, won just three of the 38 overs Australia faced to make it 135 for 0 in pursuit of 384 and was only introduced by Ben Stokes in the second session of a day cut short due to rain.

And while Marcus Trescothick, England’s assistant coach, admitted Wood was not in top physical condition after playing 81.4 overs in the series at a high pace, he insisted: “He is fit to play.”

“I think just about like everyone else, there are little aches and pains that come out of a big run of five tests,” Trescothick said at the end. “Both teams will travel the same for now. But yes, everyone is fit to play. It was a tactical decision.”

One downside to England’s attacking style with the bat is that their bowlers have had a significantly higher workload than Australia’s throughout this series. They have already won 841.3 overs in the five Tests, 193.4 overs more than Australia – with more to come on Monday.

Australia faced criticism for their relative slowness with the bat, summed up by Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne’s tense exchange with a fan who called them ‘boring’ as they returned to the locker room Saturday night. But they made a point of trying to grind down the English tailors throughout the series.
Michael di Venuto, Australia’s assistant coach, said at the end: “Certainly part of our plan is to get them to come back and bowl more.”

Di Venuto admitted he was surprised by England’s use of wood. “I’m not sure about those tactics,” he said. “If he’s got an injury, if he can only play a certain number of overs, I’m not sure. There’s been rotation, so [I was] not surprised to see the two offspinners pulling away at one end.”

One of those offspinners, Moeen Ali, struggled with a sprained right groin suffered while hitting on the first day of the test. He returned 0-for-19 numbers in five overs, but moved cautiously down the field, and Trescothick suggested Moeen wouldn’t be fully fit for a few weeks.

“He’s fine,” Trescothick said. “You saw him bowling today. He obviously had the little problem he has. He obviously rested a bit and lifted his feet. It’s not 100 per cent – of course that’s not the case. It probably won’t be for two or three weeks from now, but we’ve got some of him and we’ll keep trying to do that again tomorrow.”

Trescothick also believes the ball change that took place shortly before the rain set in – after the first ball from the 37th, when Wood’s bouncer hit Khawaja in the helmet – could affect the result. “I think it was just a little more difficult,” he said. “That was the difference.

“Immediately there is a bit more life. The balls seem to have gotten very soft very quickly in this game – and this series. Both captains have tried to change them many times. Whether it makes a difference, the rain that falls and save it for tomorrow, who knows?

Australia needed 249 more runs to clinch the Ashes and secure a first series win in England since 2001, following unbeaten half-centuries from Khawaja and David Warner. “It was an outstanding start to our first two games,” di Venuto said. “The conditions have a lot to do with it today. It’s a very good wicket at bat.

“There’s a lot of guys who’ve been on the Ashes series here in the past who haven’t been able to win, and 20 [22] years is a long time. We’re in a great position for some of the boys to have that on their resumes; we are all really looking forward to scoring those 250 points tomorrow.”

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