The Durham paceman has been England’s quickest white-ball bowler for much of the past three years, able to summon a steepling bouncer and leave batsmen hopping when he bends his back, but has not always boasted figures to match.
Wood goes into this month’s five-match one-day series, which begins in Dambulla on Wednesday, with 34 wickets in 34 matches and a modest strike-rate of one every 51.2 deliveries.
The 28-year-old tackled the issue head on with bowling coach Chris Silverwood, who was similarly rapid in his own playing days, and the pair have been casting a wide net in search of inspiration.
“I said to him that although I’d played a few games for England I hadn’t taken loads of wickets. I’d taken one in a game, two in a game but I hadn’t had that five-wicket haul,” said Wood, who has a career-best return of 4-33 against Australia.
“He got a hold of the analyst and we looked at bowlers like Kagiso Rabada (of South Africa) and Pat Cummins (of Australia).
“I’m not the same as them, they’re a lot bigger than me and I’m shorter and skiddier. But when they’re bowling quick how do they get their wickets? What kind of fields do they have? How do they get people out? It’s all about seeing how different people go about it.”
One change he has worked on is in his run-up, losing the idiosyncratic ‘back step’ and adding a few extra paces to his approach.
“Off the short run I was having to force it all the time, that meant I was putting more stress than I needed to on my body and having to ramp it up to get my top speed,” he explained.
“I just pushed my run up back a bit and felt I could cruise into it a little bit better, and look for more rhythm rather than being at the top end forcing it all the time. It’s a trial, I can always go back.”
Although Wood would love to see early dividends by rattling through Sri Lanka’s top order over the next two weeks, he is realistic about the nature of a seamer’s job on the island.
Given conditions spells are likely to be short, pitches slow and swing in short supply after the first few overs. If the team require discipline more than dynamism, he is happy to oblige.
“You’ve got to be careful that you don’t hunt for wickets here because you can quickly disappear if you are trying to get a wicket every ball,” he said.
“All of a sudden there’s one too short, there’s one too wide… As a seam bowler here it’s almost the reverse of England where your spinners do the holding jobs and your seamers generally take the wickets.
“That new ball is key for us. If we can get a couple with that it would be brilliant but if not it’s about dotting up, hitting the wicket hard and letting the spinners attack from the other end and do some damage in the middle.”
Wood played in a near full-strength team in England’s only completed warm-up match last week and is expected to line up on Wednesday, with uncapped Warwickshire quick Olly Stone probably most vulnerable if Liam Dawson is selected as a third specialist spinner.
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It’s day two of the First Test between Pakistan and Australia in Dubai and day one belonged completely to the hosts. Pakistan have lost nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas early on day two with Peter Siddle ending the pacer’s 26-ball stay at the crease. Overnight batsman Haris Sohail has been joined by Asad Shafiq at the crease and the pair have taken Pakistan to 329-4 at lunch.
The Aussie opted to take the second new ball immediately after lunch as both batsmen brought up their respective half-centuries. The pair’s 150-run stand for the fifth wicket was broken ultimately by Marnus Labuschagne who dismissed Shafiq f0r 80 in the second session. The hosts were batting at 417-5 when tea was taken on day two.
Post tea, Babar Azam was run-out for just four after attempting a tight single. Sohail though, continued to march on and brought up a maiden Test hundred. The left-hander’s 110-run innings was ended by Nathan Lyon in the final session. The hosts lost skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (15) to a run-out too as they slumped to 470-8. Paine’s men then wrapped up the Pakistan innings on 482 runs with Siddle standing out with a three-wicket haul.
In reply, Australia’s openers Aaron Finch and Labuschagne survived a tricky period of 13 overs without any loss before stumps were drawn on day two.
Thanks to a stunning 126 from comeback king Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan reached 255 at the end of the day’s play for the lost of just three wickets.
Will the Aussie bowlers be able to pick up some wickets today?
Carrying on from their overnight score of 255-3, Sarfraz Ahmed’s men added 227 runs more on Monday as Australia’s bowlers were put through the wringer in the wilting heat of Dubai.
Haris Sohail was the standout batsman for Pakistan on day two with the left-hander registering his maiden Test ton before being dismissed. Here, we take a closer look at the 29-year-old’s first international hundred for his country.
RUNS SCORED: 110
BALLS FACED: 240
Sohail arrived at the crease late on day one after openers Mohammad Hafeez and Imam-ul-Haq had put a solid foundation for Pakistan with a 205-run stand. Carrying on the good work done by the openers, the left-hander saw Mohammad Abbas depart early on day two before forging a mammoth 150-run stand for the fifth wicket along with Asad Shafiq. The southpaw was circumspect in the early part of his innings and took 149 deliveries to get to his half-century. He stepped up a gear following that milestone and brought up a maiden Test hundred off 223 balls. He ultimately fell for 110 after feathering an edge to Tim Paine while attempting to cut a Nathan Lyon delivery.
Perseverance and concentration. Sohail was a picture of concentration at the crease throughout his stay and was determined not to throw his wicket away on a pitch which favoured batsmen a great deal. He took his time to get settled in the innings and survived a couple of shaky moments including a lbw review by Lyon which was deemed not out by the third umpire. However, once set, he thrived against the Aussie attack, especially the spinners Lyon and Jon Holland. He accelerated in the second half of his innings to take the attack to Australia.
Well played Haris Sohail! Played the spinners particularly well #PakVAus— zainab abbas (@ZAbbasOfficial) October 8, 2018
While he was generally unflappable at the crease, there were a few lapses in concentration in his 240-ball stay. Early on day two, he edged a Peter Siddle delivery that luckily flew in the gap between slips and gully. Later, he advanced down the pitch to Lyon before deciding to not offer a shot. Sohail was struck on the pads with ball-tracking showing that the ball would crash onto his stumps. However, Australia’s review was turned down by the umpire as the ‘three-metre’ rule came to the aid of the Pakistan batsman.
VERDICT – 8/10
Sohail has always been a gifted batsman and big things were expected from him when made his limited-overs debut for Pakistan in 2013. However, a serious knee-injury and loss of form robbed him of a consistent run out in international cricket with his Test debut coming as late as 2017. A career which promised much was looking like fading into oblivion but just like Hafeez’s ton on Sunday, Sohail’s maiden Test hundred could not have come at a better time for the top-order batsman.
It is a maiden international ton which has taken a long time coming but it is one which should do Sohail’s confidence a world of good and help him stake a permanent claim to a berth in Pakistan’s Test setup. A conventional batsman with orthodox technique, Sohail’s game has always been more suited to red-ball cricket and him finding form could solve a lot of Pakistan’s batting puzzles in the Test arena.
His career has been plagued by injuries and at one point it looked like he may have to retire due to a knee problem. He's worked so hard to regain fitness & it's great to see Haris Sohail finally score a century in international cricket #PAKvAUS— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) October 8, 2018