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West Indies vs England 2019: Was Mark Wood's St. Lucia effort just a flash in the pan?

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
18 Feb 2019, 23:34 IST

West Indies v England - 3rd Test: Day Four
West Indies v England - 3rd Test: Day Four

England eventually found form, salvaging a win in St. Lucia to end their torrid West Indian adventure. But there are still concerns aplenty where certain players are concerned, and indeed were their futures lie.

Ben Foakes, dropped for the Gros Islet Test essentially because of team balance alone, is at the wayside for the foreseeable future. So too is Keaton Jennings, after what can only be described as a horrid series opening the batting - where he spent his tour providing slip practice to the West Indian cordon, only to be brought back to fail once more.

Yet, it is the success of Mark Wood that has English fans and media alike licking their lips. There are shrines being made to this new heir apparent to the ageing Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

English fast bowlers are a curious breed. Apart from the stalwarts in Broad and Anderson, the side has seen something of a merry-go-round of fast bowlers come in and out over the recent past. Ryan Sidebottom, Graham Onions, Steve Finn, Chris Jordan and Jake Ball have all had opportunities to make their mark, only to have one bad series and then thrown into the burning tyre fire that is the ECB's fast bowling graveyard.

Selectors are quick to pick but certainly don't tend to stick. This is where the Mark Wood hysteria is puzzling.

Wood has indeed been hampered by injuries throughout his career to date, limiting his opportunities at both first-class and test level. But it is when he is fully fit that he so often fails to make an impact, even though he does manage to make the speed gun sing at 150km/h.

Through 13 Tests he has only managed 36 wickets at 37.36 apiece, including his 'barnstorming' 5/41 in St Lucia. At first-class level things are a tad more optimistic - averaging 27.37, yet his wicket tally of 162 wickets from 51 games doesn't exactly scream match winner.

Wood's effort in St. Lucia was certainly impressive; he bowled fast at the stumps and utilized the short ball well to unsettle the West Indies batsmen. But it is in his consistency where he needs to improve. His 1/51 in the second innings provides a curious insight into how quickly he can drop off in intensity after a good performance.

The English public and media love to find a new poster boy, especially in a fast bowler. But Wood is not exactly new to the scene; he has had his opportunities and not taken them before. One stellar match does not make a career.

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With only one Test, a four-day game against Ireland, before the Ashes series begins in August, England now have a Mark Wood issue.

They will be hesitant to drop him after his most recent effort, but with the biggest of all series on the line, they have a decision to make. Was Wood's most recent effort a big stride forward in his career, or just another flash in the pan moment from a player that has failed before?.

Ed Smith and James Taylor have much to discuss in the coming months.

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