ICC Hall of Famer Ricky Ponting has been impressed with England fast bowler Mark Wood’s impact in the Ashes since his lone Test match in Leeds.
License to bowl at full tilt – even at the cost of leaking runs – as Wood produced a spirited display of fast bowling for his side at Headingley as England secured a thrilling three-wicket win to stay alive in the Ashes race.
Wood took five wickets in the first innings to vindicate England’s decision to win the toss and bowl, then took two more wickets in a pulsating contest, posting excellent match figures of 7/100 in a player-of-the-match performance.
But it was Wood’s ability to hit 150 km/h that caught Ponting’s eye, allowing the former Australian skipper to compare him to the pair of his former teammates.
Speaking to host Sanjana Ganesan on the latest episode of ICC Review, Ponting heaped praise on Wood, hailing the fiery right-hander as a “complete strike weapon” in the likes of Australian greats Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee.
“(Wood) is a bit like him (Johnson) and I think his prime is like Brett Lee,” Ponting said.
“Changing the bowling first, bowling fast, scaring the batsmen, getting a bit of movement while there. He is simply a complete strike weapon.
Ponting added that England should also use him like that, unsettling new batsmen at the crease and bowling short, sharp spells.
He recognized that fitness and bowling at a similar pace for back-to-back Tests would be Wood’s and England’s biggest challenge.
“I think the biggest challenge is to get him in the next couple of matches,” Ponting said.
“I know he said after Headingley that I think he’s got it right, having done three Tests in a row in Australia in the last Ashes series.
“He’s going to be challenged if he keeps his velocity in the mid-90s because they’re like guys you know he’s not very tall. Absolute top pace-wise they will be very easy to deal with.
“They don’t get a steep bounce, they run into the bat, they don’t have a lot of movement, but if he can keep pace at the top like he did at Leeds, he can be really dangerous. The Aussies are sure of that.
Wood lived up to expectations in his first appearance of the series in the third Test, allowing England to bowl out Australia for 263 in the first innings at Headingley.
It turned out to be crucial as the hosts were unable to match the score but almost denied Australia any lead they might have hoped for.
“I think there was a noticeable difference at Headingley,” Ponting said of Wood’s impact.
“I mean someone who can run and bowl at that pace, but he also gets movement with the ball. His seam presentation, the way he leaves the ball is excellent for someone who runs and bowls as fast as he does.
“You see, (Usman) Khawaja’s delivery comes back down the line in the mid-90s.
“If you’ve got a guy like that, you’ve got to play them, when they’re physically fit and going, you’ve got to keep playing them until they finally run out of steam.
“The impact he had on the game was absolutely first class and I thought he and (Chris) Woakes were the difference.”
Speaking about the balance of England’s pace attack in the last Test, Ponting said he thought he would have kept Josh Tong in the hosts’ XI but acknowledged Voakes’ role in the win.
“I thought they would stick to the tongue and bring Wood,” shared the Australian.
“But I think it was a very good decision to bring Vokes and Wood into the team because Vokes obviously strengthens their batting and the conditions they felt they would get at Headingley suited Vokes to the ground.
“With Wood there, they had more sting in their bowling attack. Some of the stuff we saw him bowl was express.
“It’s about as fast as it gets, hitting 96 or 97 miles per hour. He seems to have unsettled some in the Australian top order.
“So, they want to push him forward for the next couple of games. It’s great for him and England that he gets a long break to Manchester as they need to get him up and firing again for the rest of the series.
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