Fast bowler experiences “acute pain” after attempting to bowl in nets before fifth day
Wood, England’s fastest bowler, had not played any part in the match since bowling five compromised overs on the third morning, in which his regular 90mph pace was noticeably lacking.
Despite optimistic updates from the England camp in the past 24 hours, the nature of Wood’s injury had been an immediate concern, given that it was elbow soreness – later diagnosed as a stress fracture – that caused England’s other 90mph spearhead, Jofra Archer to undergo two operations in 2021, the second of which is likely to keep him out of action at least until May.
And despite England’s pre-lunch declaration on the final day in Antigua, with which they set West Indies a tempting target of 286 in 71 overs, their hopes of victory have already taken a major hit with the confirmation that Wood was out of contention.
According to the team spokesman, Wood attempted to bowl approximately six deliveries in the nets before the start of the fifth day’s play, but “struggled with acute pain” – an assessment that chimes with the concerns voiced by Steve Harmison, the former England fast bowler and TalkSPORT commentator, who said that Wood had been “devastated” after suffering the injury, adding that “he’s frustrated, he couldn’t straighten his elbow, there’s a bit of swelling”.
After an injury-plagued start to his Test career, including three ankle operations in the space of 12 months in 2016, Wood has enjoyed a sustained run of fitness in recent times – partly attributed to his decision to revert to a longer, smoother run-up after a sprinter’s style approach in his early years. He was England’s stand-out bowler in an otherwise dismal Ashes series, claiming 17 wickets at 26.64 in four Tests, making this the busiest winter of his 26-Test career.
That Ashes workload, Harmison added, may have been a contributory factor in this subsequent breakdown.
“He bowled a lot [in Sydney] and I remember thinking that we’re going to need him further down the line”, Harmison said. “He just kept bowling dead overs.
“But Mark will never ever shy away from that. The thing with him is that he always wants to take wickets, he’s a bit like Ben Stokes. And that’s where you need strong leadership to just take the ball off them and make sure they don’t go anywhere near the bowling.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket