Wood, a strapping left-arm seamer, has been on England’s radar for some time – he is a former Under-19 international and was a reserve for January’s T20I series in Barbados – but his involvement highlights the extent to which 50-over cricket has slipped down the list of priorities in English cricket since the 2019 World Cup.
“He has been consistent for Lancashire over the past 12 months and we have been monitoring his progression,” Mott said when the squad was announced, but a telling fact was conspicuous by its absence: Wood has never actually played a 50-over game for Lancashire.
In the two full seasons since his move to Old Trafford, none of England’s best white-ball players have played a domestic 50-over game: the Royal London Cup was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic and clashed with the Hundred in 2021. It will do so again this summer and while the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) are pushing for a change next year, it will prove hard to find room in a schedule that is already at breaking point.
“I know that I haven’t played a 50-over game for three years,” Wood tells ESPNcricinfo. “With the Hundred and the 50-over comp going on at the same time, a lot of people in the frame won’t have played a lot of 50-over cricket recently unless it’s at international level. If you look at the schedule, it’s probably something you’ll see more and more of, unless something changes.”
And yet Wood is not unduly concerned by inexperience as a 50-over bowler: “It’s very similar to T20 in a sense. Your skills are pretty much the same, it’s just a longer period of time. I was away this winter [at the Abu Dhabi T10 and the PSL] and if you take into account the Hundred and the Blast, I’ve probably played more white-ball cricket in the last 12 months than I ever have in the past.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an issue. From an outsider’s point of view, you might look at me having played four games and it might seem a bit confusing. But I think you’ve got to take white-ball cricket as a whole now, not just 50-over cricket and T20 cricket.”
The shorter format forced that generation to play in a more attacking style, one which happened to mirror the one Eoin Morgan implemented after the 2015 World Cup. Nathan Leamon, England’s white-ball analyst, wrote in his book Hitting Against The Spin with Ben Jones that it was “a happy accident” which shaped the development of “the finest collection of white-ball batsmen that England has ever produced”.
But the contrast is clearly starker now and while there are transferrable skills in many roles – openers, finishers and new-ball bowlers, for example – the ECB are keen to create opportunities for talented players to play 50-over games: the Lions play two one-day fixtures against South Africa next month and are due to tour this winter, while the return of an annual North vs South series will be discussed as part of Andrew Strauss’ high-performance review.
For Wood, the goal this week is straightforward: “I just want to try and show everyone what I’m about,” he says. “Hopefully I can make my ODI debut and do well.” If he does, he may be the first England player in the modern era to feature in an ODI with no List A track record to speak of; it seems unlikely that he will be the last.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98