Australia vs England: Practice games, the Ashes and fielding

Written by By Gregor Gall, CNN Melbourne, Australia

It’s a few days before the traditional Ashes Test in England and Mark Wood is getting ready for England’s first practice match. That’s in St Leonards in Kent, where all three sessions are mostly focused on guard practice, fielding drills and batting practice.

After that it’s time for the toss, to get the tourists off to a good start. “Every time I tee off I pray that’s the toss I lose,” says Wood, who is currently on loan from Nottinghamshire. “I don’t care how I go out there, as long as I get out there and put my hand up and perform I’m all good.

“Hopefully I don’t have too many chances during the series and, hopefully, I get to face more bowlers than I would have had. Hopefully my partner Stuart Broad won’t have many sessions where we’re facing both him and (Australia’s Adam) Zampa together.”

The 31-year-old right-arm bowler, who made his England debut against Pakistan at the age of 25 in July last year, was taken aback by the amount of media attention he received during the Test series, which England won 5-0.

“Being on loan in the first season in the English Championship I was never going to enjoy it. I was going to do everything I could to get to the next level,” he says. “When the Ashes came around I thought, it’s not a bad place to start.

Wood and Broad during England’s English Championship match against Glamorgan on June 18, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. Credit: Atul Kamble/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

“There were maybe 40 reporters here at the press conference before the first one and a bit but once you got into that bubble of the crowd it was more like 40,000 people behind the bat. From that moment on, I never got bored.

“It’s a brilliant experience and I’m so grateful that I got to experience that. Obviously the final Test against Pakistan was the one that had the great atmosphere at Lord’s. Obviously the series in Australia was a different experience with a lot of green wickets. It was a learning curve for me as a player, I got a lot better as the series went on, and all those guys are fantastic players.”

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Broad said: “Mark was very relaxed about the stuff the press asked. You couldn’t have asked for a better interview from him.

“Everyone asks why it’s hard for a bowler to get into the team and (there are) so many other players in good form. Everyone is gunning for him, but there’s three on our team and if any one of us get injured we’ve got another one to come in and he would slot in.”

England’s first tour game against Australia A was closed without a ball being bowled because of a washout. Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

In the meantime, the England squad is busy working on improving a fielding and batting technique that was criticized for its ineffectiveness in Australia.

“We’ve probably been quite thrifty with the time we’ve spent on our practices during this series,” Wood says. “We’ve probably been a bit tight with so many days off, but we’ve obviously been practicing every day and doing gym work and bowlers have been bowling.”

In some ways, the lack of batting practice can be seen as a positive, he adds.

“The guys have been concentrating on their skills and we’re just going to have to build up our games with the bat. If I were to say we’re going to go into the series with six overs in the middle, maybe in the second Test, it would give us a chance of things.”

Among the players retained from the Ashes team, Chris Woakes made his international debut against New Zealand in Wellington in January and faced Australia on his second test, in Adelaide.

New batsman Ollie Pope made his Test debut during the Ashes. Credit: Graham Hunt/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

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