30th over: West Indies 69-4 (Chase 26, Hetmyer 16) Chase, who was torpedoed by Broad in Antigua, does seriously well to get his bat down on another grubber from Wood. He can do the square root of bugger all two balls later when a short ball keeps absurdly low, goes under his bat and misses the off stump by a whisker. That’s extraordinary – two grubbers in three balls.
“I only saw Allan Donald bowl once for Warks, but there was one of those spells,” says Richard Jansz-Moore. “I have the misfortune to be a Northants fan, but back then we were pretty good and had a healthy rivalry with Warwickshire. I went along to a one-day knockout game at Edgbaston with reasonable hope. Donald started off bowling and he looked pretty decent, but nothing too worrying.
“Then Warks took a wicket and Rob Bailey came out to bat, at the time he was Northants’ best batsman by quite some way and he delivered more often than not. Immediately Donald noticeably upped his speed; first ball was too quick for Bailey and whistled past his outside edge, same for the second ball, third ball smashed the stumps. Bailey was on his way and Donald eased back to his previous pace for the next Northants batsman. An incredible display of class in only half an over!”
29th over: West Indies 67-4 (Chase 23, Hetmyer 17) ‘Catch that!’ says Jonny Bairstow, as Chase plays a defensive shot straight into the ground. Three singles from Moeen’s over, and a lot of chat from behind the stumps.
28th over: West Indies 64-4 (Chase 21, Hetmyer 16) Mark Wood returns to the attack and sends down a sizzling yorker that is adroitly defended by Hetmyer. His radar is a bit off for the remainder of the over, mostly down the leg side, and Hetmyer is able to flick and pull a pair of twos. Wood’s pace is fine – around 89mph – but I reckon he is forcing it a little. On Sunday he had a beautiful rhythm which made it look (and, I suspect, feel) effortless.
“Well I suppose in the context of this riff you might not call him fast but I once saw Alec Bedser bowl Don Kenyon round his legs with what was, to all intents and purposes, a fast leg break,” says Angus Doulton. “What was interesting was what happened next. Batsman and bowler looked at each other and grinned. They both knew it was a superb delivery. And nobody rushed up and kissed Alec Bedser – if you can imagine kissing the great Alec. No high fives. No crap. Those were the days.”
I’m sensing rancour. In partial defence of the modern world, Buttler’s reaction to that ball from Roach yesterday was pretty nice.
27th over: West Indies 59-4 (Chase 21, Hetmyer 12) ‘Big drive straight to Stokesy!’ says Jonny Bairstow, who is clearly relishing being top dog once again. He has been very talkative, even by his standards. A quiet over from Moeen, who isn’t getting much turn or bounce. There is a strong breeze, however, so drift is his main weapon at the moment.
26th over: West Indies 54-4 (Chase 18, Hetmyer 11) Broad beats Chase with an unplayable delivery that straightens sharply and lifts off the pitch as well. Although batting looks more comfortable than it did before lunch, there is usually at least one jaffa an over from the seamers.
“Growing up in NZ I can remember the short but wonderful career of Shane Bond who combined vicious speed and excellent accuracy,” says Freddie Blake. “His destruction of the Aussies (who we always played well against) at the 2003 World Cup is a highlight. As for Shoaib, his yorker to bowl Stephen Fleming at the 1999 World Cup was, for me, the most unbelievable ball I’ve seen.”
I loved Bond. I can still remember watching highlights of his blistering spell at Adelaide on Australia Day 2002 in a Walkabout on my birthday (yes, yes, I know), supping VB (yes, yes, I know) and generally being young. I always loved that he was sufficiently comfortable in his own skin to admit the famous yorker to Adam Gilchrist was a complete fluke.
25th over: West Indies 54-4 (Chase 18, Hetmyer 11) “Hi Rob,” says Toby Pear. “I hadn’t heard of Van Troost before, but in an idle moment google landed me on a ‘where are they now’ article from Somerset CC and I thought you’d appreciate it too. Mostly as he gives away his recipe for raw pace: ‘Not being able to cook I went out to McDonald’s every night for six weeks… I had my own double room right next to McDonalds and literally I spent my whole summer holidays bowling fast and eating Big Macs, so they were pretty special times for me for sure’.”
I’m researching an article on him at the moment and this is gold, so thanks.
24th over: West Indies 52-4 (Chase 17, Hetmyer 10) Hetmyer misses an attempted hook stroke off Broad. While he is batting friskily, Chase looks determined and solid. He hasn’t had a great series with the bat, though he’s received some good deliveries, including an unplayable grubber in Antigua.
“Not a spell as such, but I used to watch Warwickshire in Allan Donald’s day, usually sat at deep cover/midwicket,” says Tom Hopkins. “Until then, I’d only really seen cricket on TV, camera behind the bowler, foreshortening effect etc. I was astonished by where the keeper and slips stood for him, they were miles back. A sense of the raw pace the ball had to have that you only get in the flesh.”
23rd over: West Indies 51-4 (Chase 18, Hetmyer 8) Moeen Ali replaces James Anderson, who only bowled a couple of overs after lunch. Maybe he’s feeling his ankle. Hetmyer almost yorks himself from Moeen’s first ball, prompting Jonny Bairstow to try some ‘Mind the windows’-style sledging. Hetmyer ignores him and drives a single down the ground.
“The impressive thing about figures like Joel Garner’s is that he was competing for wickets with all those other great bowlers,” says Bernard Hughes. “Richard Hadlee (who was amazing, not slagging him) had all the opportunities to take wickets because he was NZ’s only decent bowler. Makes Garner’s figures even more impressive.”
Yes, good point. He never took a ten-for in Tests for that reason. Also, if he’s not the greatest limited-overs bowler in history, my backside’s a fire engine.
22nd over: West Indies 48-4 (Chase 16, Hetmyer 7) Hetmyer misses another extravagant drive at Broad, who is getting the ball to straighten from around the wicket.
“Sending the best batsman in the world off limping is about as good as it is possible for fast bowling to get in my opinion,” says Adam Hirst. “Not sure the over counts as a spell but Waqar v Lara is Test cricket at its finest. Setting him up with three outswingers that resulted in 10 runs then putting in a toe-crushing yorker that knocks over a genuine great and leg stump as well? Wins it for me.”
21st over: West Indies 45-4 (Chase 14, Hetmyer 6) Chase plays a beautiful cover drive for four off Anderson. Batting was almost comically difficult against the new ball but it looks more comfortable now.
“The spell that I remember as ‘the fastest’ I’d seen (on telly) was Shaun Tait in a T20 vs Pakistan, I believe in 2010,” says Olly Horne. “The first over was all between 150-160kph, just ferocious and barely believable. Loved watching him, no idea where it was going but it was always getting there extremely quickly. Another man whose body was torn apart by its own capabilities!”
That’s the thing about really hunky sportsmen – we’re often unlucky with injuries.
20th over: West Indies 41-4 (Chase 10, Hetmyer 6) Stuart Broad returns at the other end in place of Mark Wood, who is sensibly kept to a four-over spell. Hetmyer misses a flamboyant yahoo at a wide delivery. There was a noise as the ball passed the bat, though Broad didn’t appeal and Bairstow was only mildly interested. Ultra-Edge suggests there was no edge. But it doesn’t bloody tell us what the noise was, does it.
“I was at the first day of the first Test v Windies at Edgbaston in 1984,” says Jeremy Gostick. “You heard the thud of Marshall’s delivery hitting Andy Lloyd in the head from the boundary. Poor old Andy was never the same again.”
19th over: West Indies 40-4 (Chase 9, Hetmyer 6) Ben Stokes starts the session with an impromptu handstand, which might be a first in Test cricket. Jimmy Anderson, who was too good with the new ball, returns to the attack and lands awkwardly on his ankle in his delivery stride. He seems okay, although he is not entirely thrilled when Hetmyer smokes him back over his head for four.
“I know how favourable the OBO community is towards pedantry,” begins Phil Russell, “so feel obliged to point out that a boundary six can only be scored if there is some contact with the bat. A seven wides/six byes/six leg-byes situation is likely to need some overthrows, which is unlikely to improve the rolling boil of the bowler in question.”
How did we survive before the old pedantry?
Ah, I missed this email earlier from Dan Goldstraw.
“For unsung fast bowlers, there was a truly terrifying prospect at Taunton in the early/mid 90s. Adrianus Van Troost. He bowled the speed of light and had literally no idea where it was going to go. Could be a beamer, a bouncer could go for six, or an absolute jaffa. I’ve never been scared going out to bat but I was that day.”
18th over: West Indies 35-4 (Chase 8, Hetmyer 2) Chase is hit painfully on the glove by a malevolent short ball from Wood, after which he gets down the other end as soon as possible. Hetmyer is put on his backside by a good bouncer and then calmly blocks the last delivery of the session. England have been all over West Indies and are on course for a huge consolation victory.
17th over: West Indies 34-4 (Chase 7, Hetmyer 2) A quiet over from Stokes. We’ll have time for one more from Wood before the break.
“I saw Andre van Troost at the Oval bowling in tandem with Andrew Caddick,” says Paul McIntyre. “The Surrey batsmen were keen to face Caddick.”
16th over: West Indies 33-4 (Chase 6, Hetmyer 2) Mark Wood has bowled 11.2 overs in this match, and taken six wickets.
WICKET! West Indies 31-4 (Hope c Broad b Wood 14)
That’ll do. Mark Wood gets his first wicket of the innings, with Shai Hope lobbing gently to cover. It was a strange shot from Hope, who tried to play defensively with both feet off the ground – and one hand off the bat – as the ball came back at him. It looped off the leading edge towards Broad, who backpedalled smartly to take the catch.
15th over: West Indies 27-3 (Hope 10, Chase 6) Chase fences a Stokes lifter wide of gully for four, and berates himself for playing the shot. West Indies have probably three more overs to survive before lunch.
14th over: West Indies 23-3 (Hope 10, Chase 2) Wood beats Hope with a superb full-length delivery that straightens off the seam. That missed the outside edge by a long way, in fact. Hope responds with a glorious cover drive for four off the next ball. Wood doesn’t yet have the rhythm of the first innings, though he still hovering around 90mph.
“Flintoff to Kallis at Edgbaston in 2008 has to be worth a shout,” says Tom Davies. “As, obv, does the five balls to Ponting in that over at the same venue three years earlier.”
Oh yes, good one that.
13th over: West Indies 16-3 (Hope 4, Chase 2) Another maiden from Stokes to Chase, who is trying to hang around on the assumption batting will get a bit easier after lunch.
“Tweaking your table to show most wickets after 35 also pretty revealing,” says Tom Bowtell. “Jimmy has taken 95 wickets @20.33. Of those with more wickets, just fluky old SF Barnes has a better average.”
12th over: West Indies 16-3 (Hope 4, Chase 2) It’s time for Mark Wood, who gets a huge cheer when his name is announced. English cricket is a much happier place when he is in the team and is bowling well. He has three slips, two gullies, a leg slip and a short leg. His third ball is a beautiful bouncer that forces Hope to duck forward outside the line. That rattles Hope, who is beaten chasing a wide one next ball. A fine start from Wood, with a top speed of 89mph.
11th over: West Indies 14-3 (Hope 2, Chase 2) Ben Stokes replaces the declining James Anderson, who has gone 11 deliveries without taking a wicket. This is Stokes’s first bowl in the match; as Nasser Hussain says on Sky, there is surely a correlation between his workload with the ball and his batting average. His first over is a maiden to Chase, who does well to dig out an attempted yorker.
“Obviously Donald vs Atherton in 98 and Courtney Walsh vs Atherton in 93-94’s first Test were great watching,” says Gareth Fitzgerald, “but a special word for Devon Malcolm’s opening spell at Perth in 94-95. He didn’t take a wicket but he had Slater and Taylor hopping and jumping all over the shop. Slater was as brave a batsman as you could see but even he was heading to square leg at times. Boy we knew how to mismanage them in the 90s…”
It was quite something, that spell. I wish there was full footage of his second-innings spell against the Aussies at the Oval in 1993. I reckon that’s the fastest he ever bowled.
10th over: West Indies 14-3 (Hope 2, Chase 2) All things being equal, England are likely to start the 2019 Ashes with the same attack that played the first Test against Australia in 2015: Anderson, Broad, Wood, Stokes and Ali. Funny how things work out.
“Thanks for that stat about Jimmy’s last 200 wickets coming at an average of 21: I’d been watching his average tick down over the last few years, but that’s surely an incredible feat for an ageing pace bowler,” says Ben Powell. “Two questions: where do you source that stat from and how does this compare to McGrath and how his average moved over his career?”
9th over: West Indies 12-3 (Hope 1, Chase 1) A quiet over from Anderson. Didn’t even take a wicket, though he did allow Hope to get off the mark from his 27th delivery. Is Father Time finally catching up with him?
“I remember being at Old Trafford when Graham Thorpe got a century against WI when Fidel Edwards bowled as quickly as I’ve ever seen,” says Richard Liddle. “I was sat at midwicket and could barely see the ball at all. I believe he broke Thorpe’s finger too and he batted on. Spectacular stuff.”
I like semi-forgotten spells like that. Edwards was lightning during that 2003-04 series in the Caribbean as well. On a side note, did anyone ever see Andre van Troost bowl? He sounded utterly terrifying.
8th over: West Indies 11-3 (Hope 0, Chase 1) Chase is beaten by a stunning legcutter from Broad that turns him round and flicks the back leg on its way through to Bairstow. Another maiden. It would be a major surprise if this game doesn’t finish today. England could easily rout West Indies for 50 or 60.
7th over: West Indies 11-3 (Hope 0, Chase 1) That was a desperate duck from Darren Bravo. He survived an LBW review first ball, was beaten five times by Anderson, and then edged to slip. Anderson has five slips and a gully for the new batsman Roston Chase, who squirts a single to get off the mark. Anderson has figures of 4-2-6-3, and four of the runs he conceded came from an edge that went through the slips at catchable height.
“If I could just interrupt all this ‘halcyon days’ chat on aggressive fast bowlers we have loved/feared/admired (delete as applicable), it seems that those two Jimmy wickets have taken his average below 27,” says Ben Powell. “Truly, he just gets better and better.”
And the last 200 have come at an average of 21. He’s trialling a new run-up in this innings, which is extraordinary for a player of his age and stature. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played Test cricket in his forties.
WICKET! West Indies 10-3 (Bravo c Root b Anderson 0)
And another one goes by. Bravo drives hopefully at Anderson and edges straight to first slip, where Root takes a comfortable catch. It was a poor stroke but Anderson has been truly majestic in this spell.
6th over: West Indies 10-2 (Hope 0, Bravo 0) Hope does well to defend a couple of sharp nipbackers from Broad. It’s a maiden; Hope has 0 from 19 balls, Bravo 0 from 10.
Meanwhile, here’s more on that incident between Shannon Gabriel and Joe Root yesterday.
5th over: West Indies 10-2 (Hope 0, Bravo 0) Bravo is beaten twice more by the brilliant Anderson. It looks like a wicket could fall every delivery, though West Indies know that things should get a lot easier as the ball loses its hardness. The drive, it’s fair to say, is not a percentage shot at this stage of the innings.
“Would you feel cheated,” says Adam Hirst, “if Anderson and Broad cleaned up the Windies before Wood could get on?”
Cheated? I’d feel bereft.
4th over: West Indies 10-2 (Hope 0, Bravo 0) The Buttler dropped it again. Hope drives loosely at Broad and edges it straight to third slip, where Buttler puts down a routine chance. He’s had a shocker in the slips in this series.
“Most devastating fast bowler I have ever seen was Roy Gilchrist, and by a country mile,” says Peter Rowntree. “Went to a charity match between Brondesbury and Yorkshire yonks ago in aid of Brian Close’s benefit. Not much charity about Brondesbury that afternoon, had Roy Gilchrist as a guest player, after he was banned from the first-class game. It was utter carnage, never seen anyone bowl that fast in my life, before or since.”
If we were picking an all-time Sinister XI, Gilchrist would surely share the new ball with Sylvester Clarke.
3rd over: West Indies 10-2 (Hope 0, Bravo 0) Bravo is beaten by his second, third I fourth deliveries. Blistering stuff from Anderson.
“Joel Garner – my favourite West Indian fast bowler – gives Greg Chappell a proper working over,” says Matt Emerson.
Garner is slightly forgotten as a Test bowler, but his reckon is as good as anyone’s: 259 wickets at 20.97. Pick those out!
REVIEW! West Indies 10-2 (Bravo not out 0)
Darren Bravo survives an LBW review first ball. He fell over a beautiful inducker from Anderson that thudded into the pad, and the whole England team went up in expectation of a third wicket. They were confident enough to review when it was given not out, but replays showed it was bouncing over the stumps.
WICKET! West Indies 10-2 (Brathwaite c Stokes b Anderson 8)
Lovely stuff from James Anderson. Brathwaite edges a good delivery to second slip, where Ben Stokes takes a simple catch at the second attempt. The line and length were immaculate, forcing Brathwaite to play, and there was just enough seam movement to take the edge.
2nd over: West Indies 10-1 (Brathwaite 8, Hope 0) Stuart Broad shares the new ball. I think that’s the right decision, although Root must have been tempted to give it to Mark Wood, move himself to mid-off and get out a bucket of popcorn.
The new ball is doing all sorts off this capricious pitch. Hope survives an appeal for a catch at short leg and then misses a big drive at a ball that snaps back through the gate and just misses the off stump.
“Old Trafford 1976 – I remember watching the infamous evening session with my father, who was muttering stuff like, ‘No fool like an old fool’ at Brian Close but then started saying things like, ‘It’s gone too far now’,” says Gary Naylor “The colour television was still a novelty in the house and I could barely see the ball, but it didn’t matter. At 13 years of age, I knew that what I was witnessing was something elemental, the same raw stuff that would see a classroom of kids press their noses to the windows as lightning bursts in the sky. But it was also beautiful – a perfect example of how a body can move through space and, thereby, transform both itself and its environment. It was a portal to a world of sporting conflicts, but also to a world of aesthetic pleasure and it came just before sex would drown such thoughts away for a decade or two. Looking back, I think it changed my life.”
Have you thought about writing for a living, Gary?
1st over: West Indies 7-1 (Brathwaite 5, Hope 0) That was so good from Moeen, only one rung down from Ben Stokes’s once-in-a-lifetime grab to dismiss Adam Voges in 2015. Anderson almost struck with the first ball of the innings, incidentally, when Brathwaite edged at catchable height between third slip and gully.
Here’s Bill Hargreaves. “I’d probably say the best pace bowling, in terms of making an art of the thing, that I’ve seen would have been either Michael Holding, whose approach always seemed poetry in motion, or Malcolm Marshall, against whom I would have backed away and suggested he have a free shy at the wicket.”
I think Wasim Akram is the greatest fast-bowling artist I’ve seen, though Malcolm Marshall was slightly past his best when I discovered this things of ours.
WICKET! West Indies 5-1 (Campbell c Ali b Anderson 0)
Joel Campbell falls for a golden duck! He edged a drive at a James Anderson outswinger towards gully, where Moeen Ali stretched high to his right to take a blinding one-handed catch.
“I would like to comment on Root’s stunning maturity when it came to handling a possibly homophobic slur in the heat of the moment,” says OB Jato. “Root’s reply was world-class and act of solidarity for an under-represented community in sports. Hopefully he sets an example for future generations about tolerance, and handling yourself with grace in such situations. Top bloke!”
Yes, that was ever so impressive. It would have been so easy to say nothing, or to smile nervously, or to freeze for a few seconds until the moment had passed. One thing I found interesting is that he seemed conscious that the stump-mic was on, not that this in any way detracts from a note-perfect response.
Ben Stokes finished on 48 not out, since you asked.
WICKET! England 361-5 declared (Root c Hetmyer b Gabriel 122)
Root falls for 122, clunking a low full toss to short midwicket. He’s mildly annoyed as he walks off, though he shouldn’t be so hard on himself. That was an impressively resilient innings which partially redeems a miserable series, and England have a lead of about 800.
Root has decided that’s more than enough. He has declared, and West Indies will return in 10 minutes to chase a nominal target of 485.
105th over: England 360-4 (Root 122, Stokes 47) Stokes has a golf swing at Alzarri Joseph’s first ball, launching it over midwicket for four. It’s really good to see Stokes playing with his old aggression. I know this innings ia bit of a freebie but he was also much more positive in the first innings.
“England tour to the West Indies, 1980-81: THAT over from Michael Holding to Geoff Boycott,” says Ade Couper. “Probably the best over ever bowled?”
It’s a yes from me. You can barely see the ball on the YouTube clip, and not only because the picture quality is so bad.
104th over: England 351-4 (Root 119, Stokes 40) Root misses a premeditated scoop off Gabriel, who is precisely 0.00 per cent amused, and then laces a classical cover drive for four. For the first time in a while, England’s batsmen are having a bit of fun.
“I had the privilege or honour to film and direct the great Shoaib for a Channel 4 trailer,” says James Quigley. “He promised me 20 deliveries at full speed. And he delivered! I had a 6x6ft bulletproof glass erected behind the stumps as I was using a fisheye lens on the camera, 12mm. When Shoaib hit the stumps that I had doctored with polyfilla they exploded and as the ball hit the glass everybody dived for cover and we all jumped out of our skins. It was unreal.
“He then decided to go over our heads. The ball hit the sightscreen without bouncing and lodged! I asked if I could pad up and he put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘James you are too nice, I won’t bowl at you.’ Absolutely a top geezer and terrifying at the same time!”
I hope you still have that footage.
103rd over: England 345-4 (Root 114, Stokes 40) For the first time in a while, Ben Stokes looks like he’s enjoying his batting. He is in one-day mode this morning and has just lifted Roach imperiously over midwicket for six.
“Michael Holding was pretty scary,” says Tony Bennett. “I watched him at Lord’s in 1976 in the MCC v West Indies trial match. I could see him, but not the ball. He hit Roope, I think it was, on the shoulder and I seem to recall it went for six leg-byes.”
Hang on, where’s your exclamation mark? Six leg-byes! If that’s true, somebody needs to write a long feature on that delivery alone.
102nd over: England 334-4 (Root 113, Stokes 34) Shannon Gabriel starts at the other end and beats his favourite enemy Ben Stokes with a superb delivery angled across him. We don’t yet know whether the ICC will take any action over Gabriel’s comments to Joe Root yesterday, mainly because at this stage there is no hard evidence of what he did or didn’t say. Mind you, in modern society you are innocent until assumed guilty, so I don’t really know what the ICC are waiting for.
“Thanks for the Shoaib footage,” says Richard O’Hagan. “It reinforces my belief that great fast bowling is less about whacking the ball in short and much more about the inswinging yorker, the rapid delivery that jags away from fourth stump and so forth.”
Isn’t it often the case that, in the parlance of that disgusting other sport, the short ball gets the assist and the full ball takes the wicket?
101st over: England 332-4 (Root 112, Stokes 34) There was a bit of rain in St Lucia this morning, but the sun is out and play has started on time. Ben Stokes sets the agenda for the next hour’s play, walking down the track to club Kemar Roach’s third ball of the day whence it came for four. Roach then beats Root with a brutal leg-cutting lifter from wide of the crease. That was the definition of unplayable.
“My favourite (and I happen know it’s high on your list) is Duncan Spencer, Canterbury, 1993, in the Sunday League title decider,” says Steve Hudson. “Glamorgan beat Kent, but Spencer was an utter flamethrower, and made our jaws drop.”
I was there that day, too, and as a result became obsessed with him for the next 26 years.
“Rob,” says Robert Wilson. “If you’re going wickedly muscular quick spells, then Devon Malcolm’s You-guys-are-history moment has to get a mention. Not an easy watch, it’s a really terrifying bit of hardcore vengeful mayhem. So unerringly and sickeningly did each delivery home in on South African heads, teeth or dangly bits, that you couldn’t help but feel that the Saffers had somehow annoyed the ball as well. Revenge is a dish best chucked at someone’s head at ergonomically impossible speeds.”
“I remember watching Jeff Thomson having a spell at David Steele on telly,” says Dave Brown. “Scarred the willies out of me, it looked petrifying.”
If I could go back in time to watch one fast bowler, it would definitely be Thommo before his shoulder injury. Just look at him.
Hot hot heat
So, what’s your favourite spell of raw quick bowling? I’ll start.
Now, about this match. England are going to win it; probably tomorrow, possibly today. They will resume on 325 for four, a lead of 448, with Joe Root on 111 and Ben Stokes on 29. We already know how the story ends, but finding out the details should be a lot of fun.
Hello. Are you high on speed? ‘Cause I’m high on speed! I should stress, in the interests of my future earnings potential, that I have not gone back to the 1990s in my choice of office stimulant. It’s just that I’m struggling to sit still with excitement, because today, at some stage, we are going to see Mark Wood bowl. I know.
We’re all friends here, so let us speak frankly. Wood’s recall for this Test barely raised a meh. It’s not that we don’t wish him well, because if you don’t love Mark Wood you should seek medical help at your earliest convenience. It’s just that his career had apparently been in steady, sad decline since his eyecatching contribution to the 2015 Ashes. When he was recalled, I expected him to smile a lot, fall over a few times, ride an imaginary horse once or twice and take two for 84 from 24 overs.
His spell on day two in St Lucia, when he put the wind up the Windies, would have been exhilarating even if it was normal for him to bowl 95mph. In the context of his injury problems, and his declining pace, it was revelatory. Experience suggests we shouldn’t get carried away with Wood, because his body is so fragile, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do: THEY’RE ONLY BLOODY WELL COMING HOME.
A-hem. Before we can consider the Ashes, there is the small matter of the World Cup. Never mind Wood or Archer; England might find room for both in their squad, maybe even their XI. Sod it, let’s have Olly Stone in there as well!
I’m sorry, I’ve completely lost the head. You see, this is what pure speed does to supporters, never mind batsmen.