Mark Wood enjoying batting limelight after maiden Test half-century
Wood enjoyed every minute of his unexpected stand with his old mate Jonny Bairstow
Mark Wood has spent the winter dreaming of a hero’s return for England but got a significant variation on the story he envisaged in Christchurch.
Wood, in his first Test since last July following a lengthy recurrence of the ankle injuries which have been the bane of his professional life, helped Jonny Bairstow turn the tourists’ fortunes around against New Zealand.
Instead of a maiden five-wicket haul on day one of this second and final Test, number nine Wood hit a career-best 52 as he and Bairstow (97no) engineered a recovery from 164 for seven to 290 for eight.
The increasingly adventurous stand of 95 between two cricketers who have known one another more than half their lives offset eight wickets shared by Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Alluding to his tale of the unexpected, Wood said: “The worrying thing is I’ve got a (Test) 50 before a five-for – so I’ve done that the wrong way round, haven’t I?
“But I loved batting out there with Jonny – a lad I’ve played with and against since about 11 or 12 years old.
“I had loads of fun – I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
The two first met playing in opposition for Northumberland and Yorkshire age-group teams, and the 28-year-old Geordie said: “When I went out to bat, obviously we were in a bit of trouble, and Jonny knows that I like to have fun and a bit of crack out there.
“We were just having a laugh – ‘Oh, (Neil) Wagner’s bowled another bouncer!’ – which put my mind at ease really, and you just forget the situation you’re in.”
Wood went on to outscore his senior partner.
Asked if that was the plan, with a smile, he said: “Obviously!
“I get to 20, and think I’m like (Don) Bradman – and try too many shots.
“(But) Jonny, being a batsman, knows how to construct an innings – (whereas) at times I chanced my arm a little bit.
His only regret was the timing of his dismissal, Southee’s fifth victim, leaving debutant number 10 Jack Leach with a tough challenge – to which he rose – as he and Bairstow closed out the day.
“I was just more disappointed I got out the last ball before the second new ball – having worked so hard – to leave Leachy on his debut going in against the new ball.
“That was a bit rubbish. But apart from that, I had a great time while I was out there.
“I like that bit of arrogance about the way Jonny bats … it takes the bowlers off their gameplan, and maybe there was a little bit of panic stations at one point.”
There was little to cheer New Zealand as Bairstow and Wood launched the recovery following an earlier collapse of three wickets for one run.
Ross Taylor lightened the mood at one point on the boundary when he obliged a spectator by signing a piece of sandpaper, in a set-piece parody of the ball-tampering crisis which has beset Australia in South Africa and landed world cricket with a week of regrettable headlines.
Otherwise, Southee admits it was simply a case of the hosts keeping their cool to ensure England’s counter-attack did not get out of hand.
“They played exceptionally well when their team needed it,” he said.
“But I think the effort from the guys has been pretty good throughout. They tried most things.”