England captain Alastair Cook has confirmed that Mark Wood has been pencilled in to replace the injured James Anderson in today’s potential Ashes decider.
A side strain has ruled Anderson out of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, where England can regain the urn having taken a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
The selectors gave themselves plenty of options to make up for the loss of the country’s leading wicket-taker, adding seamers Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett and Mark Footitt to their ranks, but Wood appears a certainty to play.
He lined up in the first two Tests before concerns over an ankle injury saw him left out last week at Edgbaston, though he now appears to be fighting fit.
“It looks really good for Woody. He seems to have come through training pretty well,” said Cook.
“I think it’s fair to say (he is first choice). I thought he bowled really well at Cardiff and didn’t quite get it right at Lord’s, but he’s looked fit and ready.
“Everything he’s been asked to do he’s come through with flying colours. He’s really excited for the opportunity he’s got.
“He’ll have a last check in the morning but, yes, we’ve got everyone to select from.”
England may be content to have a player like Wood available to deputise, he is a notch quicker than Anderson and has success at the venue for Durham, but it is hardly a like-for-like swap.
Anderson has played 107 Tests and taken a record 413 scalps, compared to four caps and 14 wickets for Wood. As such, Anderson’s injury is being seen as a potential lifeline by Australia.
With his participation at The Oval also in doubt, some are even drawing parallels with Glenn McGrath’s ankle trouble in 2005 – where England secured the series by winning both of the games he missed.
“I can’t talk about Glenn McGrath as I never captained or played with him,” said Cook.
“He is obviously the best seamer who played the game. He was a big miss for them and Jimmy is a big miss for us – he gives you attacking options and control.
“But I said at the end of Edgbaston there was no point moaning about that. Injuries to fast bowlers happen. He has had a fantastic run and it is a great opportunity for whoever is picked to take on that mantle.”
Cook’s opposite number Michael Clarke enters the match on a worrying run of form.
He retains faith in his own ability, however. “The self-belief is still there, because I’m putting in the work,” said the 34-year-old.
Martyn Moxon on the Ashes: Page 20.