England’s batsmen have raised the bar with their all-out attack in the Royal London Series – but fast bowler Mark Wood has taken it upon himself to make sure he too is an aggressor against New Zealand.
Fours and sixes are one way of breaking opposition down – and goodness knows, there have been plenty in a contest tied at 2-2 approaching a Durham decider in which the runs aggregate appears set to pass 3,000 for the first time in any five-match series.
But wickets are a priceless currency too, and the one which interests Wood as he seeks to have a say in his first international appearance on his home ground.
The Durham seamer has timed his run to prominence perfectly, in Test as well as one-day international cricket at the start of an Ashes summer, and knows a haul of wickets here can help England to a heartening series victory and also press his claims to feature against Australia next month.
A sell-out crowd will pack into Emirates Durham ICG, doubtless happy at the prospect of having to dodge some big hits into the stands.
But it is Wood’s intention to ensure few Kiwi batsmen get set long enough to do much of the hitting.
“My role as the attacking option is to fight fire with fire,” said the 25-year-old.
“If they’re going to come hard, I’m going to come hard as well as I try to get them out. I quite enjoy that role.”
England’s brilliant wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler is a likely absentee, after having stitches in split webbing in his left hand, with Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow summoned as cover from Yorkshire Twenty20 duty.
Whatever the personnel, Wood anticipates another run-fest – as throughout a series in which it has been a triumph as a bowler to concede anything less than six an over.
“I think it’ll be another high-scoring game ... no doubt we’ll be bowling it down again for the batters to try to smack it!” he said, with a shrug of mock resignation.
“(But) I think wickets are important – and under 10-an-over is obviously good as well!
“We have to try to take wickets. If you take wickets, that’s the best way to stop the scoring.”
Wood is getting used to the fact that no bowler should beat himself up over figures which might once have been a source of embarrassment.
“If you can go at under six an over, then you’ve done pretty well,” he said. “Even eight an over is okay.
“David Willey was disappointed to go at eight an over at Trent Bridge – but I just said to him, ‘Look, you’ve bowled up front when the field is in, and you’ve bowled at the end when they’re trying to hit’.
“If you go at eight as a bowler in those times, you’re actually doing all right.”
Wood was in a category of his own in Nottingham on Wednesday when his 10 overs cost a miserly 49 as England levelled the series.
He said: “I was pleased with how it went, but I think I bowled at the right times.
“I bowled when we were trying to take wickets, and the opposition weren’t necessarily trying to hit it out of the park straight away.”
Even so, he has realised ODI batsmen are simply different beasts these days.
“In the past, if you hit a four or a six, you might think about getting a single off the next ball,” he said.
“There’s none of that now. If the batsmen think they can take you down, they’re going to try to do that.”
If Wood is therefore part of an endangered species, he is still happy to soldier on.
“Is it fair?” he asks.
“As a bowler, probably not.
“But the crowds are here for entertainment, and they want to see fours and sixes and hear the loud music.
“It’s a challenge for us as bowlers, but we have to be up for that – and we’ll be up for it tomorrow.
“I’d say I’m still attacking, but you have to bowl differently because the batsmen play differently.
“You have to adapt. I’ve tried a few short runs, a few bouncers and a few slower balls – you always have to try to make things happen, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
He is hoping those methods pay off again in front of his own crowd.
“I’ve said before that playing at Lord’s was special, but this will be right up there as well because it’s my home ground and there’ll be a lot of familiar faces in the crowd,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to it, and I think most of Ashington is coming down to watch me.
“It’ll be a bit rowdy – but I hope the crowd can get behind me and the lads.”
All-rounder Ben Stokes and Wood’s Durham team-mate Ben Stokes, meanwhile, has credited interim coach Paul Farbrace and one-day captain Eoin Morgan for bringing a “positive formula” to an improving England team.
Stokes has been useful with both bat and ball, scoring 68 runs and taking two wickets for 35 at Southampton, but it has been the leadership of batsman Morgan that has truly galvanised England.
The Irish-born batsman led a record-breaking run chase in the fourth game at Trent Bridge and has made at least 50 runs in each of the one-day international meetings so far.
“Farby has brought a really positive formula with him and Morgy’s always been positive whenever I’ve played underneath him,” said Stokes yesterday.
“We’ve always been telling each other to just go out and play our natural games.
“That’s what got us here in the first place, playing for our counties.
“So I think that’s just mirrored over into the way we’ve been playing so far with England.”
Stokes admits confidence is high ahead of the deciding match and feels a 3-2 series triumph over the Black Caps would be “massive”.
He added: “It’s great to be back here playing at my home ground and the camp is full of confidence at the moment after our last victory.
“We’ve been full of confidence all series with the cricket that we’ve played.
“It’s the way we want to be playing and we’re taking really big steps forward, especially with the way we’re going about our one-day cricket.”
Asked what beating New Zealand later today would mean to his colleagues, he added: “(It would be) massive.
“They finished second and were probably the best team in the whole World Cup until the final.
“We’ve played some outstanding cricket against the second-best team in the world.
“So regardless of what happens tomorrow, as a one-day outfit will be leaving here knowing we’ve made people watch England cricket again and made people watch the one-day game.
“Hopefully, we can get that victory and make it an even more special day.”
England (possible): EJG Morgan (capt), AD Hales, JJ Roy, JE Root, BA Stokes, JM Bairstow (wkt), SW Billings, AU Rashid, DJ Willey, MA Wood, ST Finn.
New Zealand (possible): B McCullum (capt), M Guptill, K Williamson, R Taylor, M Santner, G Elliott, L Ronchi (wkt), B Wheeler, T Southee, M Henry, M McClenaghan
Umpires: B Oxenford (Aus) and M Gough (Eng)
Third umpire: S Davis (Aus)
Match referee: J Srinath (Ind).