England insists Mark Wood is perfectly fit to bowl after keeping him out until the 33rd over of Australia’s run chase on a rainy Sunday afternoon at The Kia Oval, while Australia believes their approach with the bat has worn England’s bowlers down throughout this Ashes series.
Wood, who has 13 wickets at 20.38 in three Tests this series, bowled only three of Australia’s 38 overs in reaching 135 for 0 in the chase of 384 and was not introduced by Ben Stokes until the second session of a day that was shortened owing to rain.
While England’s assistant coach Marcus Trescothick recognized that Wood was not in peak physical form after bowling 81.4 overs at a high tempo in the series, he argued, “He’s fit to bowl.”
“I think, pretty much like everyone else, there are little aches and pains that come with a big five-Test series,” Trescothick said at the end. “At the moment, both teams will be traveling in the same direction. But, yes, everyone is physically capable of bowling. It was a strategic decision.”
Mark Wood has only bowled three overs in Australia’s run chase thus far.
One disadvantage of England’s aggressive batting style is that their bowlers have had a far heavier workload than Australia’s throughout this series. They have already bowled 841.3 overs in five Tests, 193.4 overs more than Australia, and more is on the way on Monday.
Australia has been chastised for its slow score with the bat, as exemplified by Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne’s heated exchange with a spectator who referred to them as “boring” as they headed back to the changing rooms on Saturday evening. Throughout the series, however, they have made a point of trying to wear down England’s seamers.
At the end, Australia’s assistant coach Michael di Venuto said, “Certainly, part of our plan is to get them to keep coming back and bowling more overs.”
Di Venuto acknowledged his amazement at England’s deployment of Wood. “I’m not sure of those tactics,” he admitted. “I’m not sure if he has an injury or if he can only bowl a certain number of overs.” Because there was some spin, I wasn’t surprised to see the two offspinners wheeling away at one end.”
Moeen Ali, one of those offspinners, has been suffering from a right groin strain suffered while batting on the opening day of the Test. He recorded figures of 0 for 19 in five overs but moved cautiously in the field, and Trescothick intimated that Moeen will be out for a few weeks.
“He’s OK,” Trescothick remarked. “You saw him bowl today, didn’t you?” He’s definitely had the niggle that he has. He’s certainly taken a break and put his feet up. It’s not perfect—of course it isn’t. It won’t be for another two or three weeks, but we’ve gotten a little bit out of him and will try to do so again tomorrow.”
Trescothick also believes that the ball change that occurred immediately before rain came in—after the opening delivery of the 37th over, when Wood’s bouncer hit Khawaja on the head—may have had an impact on the outcome. “I think it was just a little bit harder,” he explained. “That was the distinction.
“There’s a lot more life in it right away.” The balls appear to have become incredibly soft and very quick in this game and series. In multiple instances, both leaders attempted to replace them. Who knows if it makes a difference, the rain falling and being saved for tomorrow?”
After unbeaten half-centuries from Khawaja and David Warner, Australia needed another 249 runs to win the Ashes and their first series win in England since 2001. “It was an outstanding start from our two openers,” di Venuto added. “Today’s conditions had a lot to do with it. It’s an excellent batting surface.
“There have been a lot of guys who have been on Ashes series over here and haven’t won, and 20  years is a long time.” We’re in a wonderful position for some of the youngsters to earn that on their resume, and we’re all eager to get those 250 runs tomorrow.”
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