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Mark Wood expects Vitality Blast to produce stars of the future

The Durham seamer sees the tournament as a chance for cricketers to showcase their white-ball skills.

Mark Wood expects a surge of standards in this summer’s Vitality Blast as hopefuls try to bag a place in the big time – and maybe one day end up playing for the ‘Northern Numpties’.

Wood predicts a nation full of professionals out to catch the eye for the England and Wales Cricket Board’s inaugural eight-team tournament in 2020.

The Durham seamer, like England team-mate and Middlesex batsman Dawid Malan, will be free to start this year’s campaign after being left out of Vitality IT20s against Australia and India.

Wood is rested, while Malan has not kept his place despite a stellar start to his career.

Instead, respective derby fixtures against Yorkshire at Headingley and at home to Surrey beckon.

Wood said: “In the next couple of years in the Blast, there’ll definitely be some people out to impress.”

The proposed format of 100 balls per team in 2020, rather than 20 overs, has divided opinion.

Either way, Wood anticipates a skilled scrap to be involved.

“(When) the hundred-ball competition does come about, there’s fewer teams and players … so I hope that raises the standard.

“We will have a job persuading Durham fans to go and watch a team in Leeds, because it’s a bit of a trek, but I hope they do… especially if I am playing!’”

The ECB has yet to decide on names for the new franchises, but Wood already has a word of advice.

“If it was a ‘Northern Numpties’ … I think that would [make them] more involved,” he said of a north-east audience which already laps up the Blast.

“Durham don’t get massive crowds in the county championship and 50-over stuff – but then we’ll play Yorkshire in a Twenty20, and it’s our biggest game.”

As for the switch to 100 balls, he is prepared to give it a go.

“I’ve been to the Indian Premier League and spoken to some big names who are a little bit iffy about the whole concept … but I’m still quite open to try something new.

“I don’t think you’re going to play it at international level … so maybe that (could be) the problem.

“(But) if it’s a new idea, maybe people will jump on it … (if it) gets people back watching cricket on terrestrial TV.”

Test batsman Malan relishes the Twenty20 window too – having first come to prominence with a quarter-final hundred as a 20-year-old against Lancashire at The Oval 10 years ago.

“My parents have (still) actually got pictures of that day all over the fridge,” he said.

“I think I’ve done a few things better than that in my career now. But I can still remember ball-by-ball what shot I played, how I got my first runs and when I hit certain boundaries.

“It still gives me goose bumps to watch it … the highlights and the crowd, you realise how big an occasion it was and how big a step it was for my career.”

He believes Twenty20 is a critical test of whether a batsman has what it takes – as when he marked his England debut exactly a year ago with a man-of-the-match 78 against South Africa in Cardiff.

“I love proving a point – and for some other reason out of all the guys that were in the [squad], I was given one opportunity, whereas the other guys were given two.

“I was a little bit annoyed … so I knew I had the right chance to go and show what I could do.

“I sat down with myself the night before and said ‘Right, I’m definitely playing, so when I get this opportunity tomorrow I’m going to go out there, play exactly how I want’.”

:: Mark Wood and Dawid Malan were speaking at the launch of Vitality IT20 cricket – starting with England v Australia at Edgbaston on June 27. Vitality offers health insurance, life insurance & investments www.vitality.co.uk.

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