We resume coverage of the third Test on the third morning with England in their best position of the series, 142 runs ahead and with 10 second innings wickets remaining. And they are so well-placed by virtue, largely, of Mark Wood. It’s far too early to tell what his re-emergence and England’s ability to exploit his sheer pace means for the team’s future, let us just treasure it without investing too many hopes for his long-term durability.
But in a happy omen, Wood’s mentor and fellow son of Ashington, Steve Harmison, truly came of age on a Caribbean tour 15 years ago. His seven for 12 in the first Test at Kingston skittled a far better batting line-up than England are facing now, and to watch him bowling to a field of six slips, a gully and a short leg was a sight those of us who had lived through the maulings of the Seventies and Eighties could have previously conceived only with the help of expensive stimulants.
Frank Tyson once wrote: “To bowl fast is to revel in the glad animal action, to thrill in physical power and to enjoy a certain sneaking feeling of superiority over the mortals who played the game.” Harmison, with his dander up, certainly transmitted the first two but was so self-effacing it is difficult to imagine him feeling a cut above his victims. Wood, palpably, revels in it more. Even if he isn’t the long-term torch-bearer for England’s fast-bowling he has both shown the way ahead to win abroad and on the flatter pitches of Lord’s and the Oval as well as showing up the folly of the tour selection.