England are not overly concerned about the fitness of two key bowlers ahead of the World Cup, despite Adil Rashid and Mark Wood making a single appearance between them in their first three ODIs against New Zealand.
With the opening game of the World Cup – coincidentally, against the same opponents – three weeks away, England are taking a precautionary approach with both players in the knowledge that they are the two hardest bowlers to replace in their provisional 15-man squad.
Rashid took a wicket with his first ball in the first ODI in Cardiff, beating Will Young on the outside edge to knock back his off stump, but left the field with cramp three overs into his spell. He returned to bowl a further five overs, but has not featured since due to “tightness” in his calf.
Having opted out of the Hundred, Wood has not played any competitive cricket since the fifth Ashes Test at the end of July and has been working his way back to match fitness over the past week. He had a sore heel at the end of the Ashes and has not been risked in the first three ODIs of the series.
Jason Roy embraces home comforts in final push to secure World Cup berth
Jos Buttler: 'Badgering' Ben Stokes into World Cup comeback would not have worked
Stokes smokes England-record 182 to beat New Zealand by 181 runs
Stats – Stokes 182 the highest individual ODI score for England
Ben Stokes has 'really good plan' to deal with long-term knee injury
“He’s a big asset for us going into the World Cup,” Chris Woakes said after England’s victory in the third ODI. “You don’t want to risk him too soon. Bruised heels, I remember having mine: you think it’s going to be a week or two and in the end, they end up being quite long injuries that can always reoccur.”
Asked if Wood needed to play on Friday to get some match practice before the World Cup, Woakes said: “A player with Mark’s experience can go straight in. He’s not the sort of guy who needs a load of game-time.
“Myself, I like games under my belt to build up confidence and get up to speed. Actually, Mark is one of the guys I’m very envious of, because he can steam in and bowl at 93mph (150kph) as we saw in the Ashes. I don’t think it’s too much of a worry if he doesn’t play in this series but hopefully he plays the last one [at Lord’s on Friday].”
Woakes himself took 3 for 31 in a single eight-over spell to end Wednesday’s third ODI at The Oval as a contest, and said he was getting used to the rhythms of 50-over cricket again. “It was nice to bowl an eight-over spell and pick up some important wickets,” he said.
Woakes was one of eight ever-presents in England’s 2019 World Cup triumph, and said he hopes to be able to feature in all nine of their group-stage games in India over the next two months. “You want to keep putting in performances like that to keep getting the nod, selection-wise,” he said.
“From a fitness point of view, these bilateral series are quite tight and there’s a lot of travelling. Although there’s a lot of travel at the World Cup, it looks like there’s more space between games so it does give you a bit more of a routine to recover and come back stronger and be fit for the next game.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98