The Ashes: Wood prepared for axe on Anderson’s return

England's Alastair Cook (right) and Mark Wood.
England's Alastair Cook (right) and Mark Wood.
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Mark Wood knows he may have to give way to the returning James Anderson for England’s Ashes victory lap at The Oval.

The 25-year-old is acutely aware too that he is living with the threat of surgery on his chronic ankle problem, on a match-by-match basis.

It was Wood who took the wicket of Nathan Lyon to confirm England had retained the urn with a thumping innings-and-78-run win at Trent Bridge to open up an unassailable 3-1 Investec series lead.

Should Anderson be fit from his side strain, the Durham fast bowler concedes selection at The Oval this week will be out of his hands as England pare down five frontline seamers in their squad to three in the XI to take on Australia one more time.

The evidence of Anderson’s well-being was not compelling either way in practice on Monday, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker trying to work up to full pace for the first time since he had to leave the attack in the third Test at Edgbaston and then sat out Nottingham.

Wood himself was back to help England clinch the Ashes, after England took no chances with his ankle impingement in Birmingham - where Anderson and Steven Finn bowled the hosts to victory.

At Trent Bridge, it was Stuart Broad’s brilliant first-innings bowling and then all-rounder Ben Stokes second time round that inflicted most of the damage on Australia.

Wood is only sixth in England’s series averages, nine wickets at almost 37 putting him behind part-time off-spinner, Yorkshire’s Joe Root.

On that basis perhaps, he takes a realistic view about his chances of being picked for his fourth Ashes Test.

“Jimmy has 400 Test wickets – he’s England’s leading bowler – so if he’s fit and ready to go ... then it’s out of my hands.

“I’m sure everyone would want Jimmy in the side, so if he’s fit he probably gets the nod.”

Wood’s best Test figures so far are the three for 69 he finished with in Nottingham.

“There’s a little bit of pressure on me, because every other bowler has a five-for, and I haven’t yet,” he said.

“I missed out at Edgbaston, and that was hard to take, but to see the lads perform like that was brilliant.

“This game, whether I’m selected or not, I’ll be fully supportive. I’ll be doing everything I can to be ready and fit.”

England will be loath to take any undue chances with either Anderson or Wood, and in a 14-man squad they have alternatives.

Wood is mindful of the potential fragility of his ankle, a condition which means he must bowl through the pain barrier - or with pain-killers – every time he takes the field. “I don’t want to miss games for England,” he added. “I’ve had that many injuries so far in my short career that I never want that chance to be thrown out of the team.”