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The image that left Ashes legends staggered and exposed England’s ‘mystifying’ tactics

The image that left Ashes legends staggered and exposed England’s ‘mystifying’ tactics

If England are to build on their early success on day two, they can thank fast bowler Mark Wood for taking the key Australian wicket Marnus Labuschagne.

Extraordinarily left out of Adelaide after looking the most threatening English quick in the first Test, Wood squared up Australia’s regular first drop and the world’s newly crowned world No.1 batsman Labuschagne for one.

His departure left Australia reeling at 3-93 after England were bowled out for 185 at the MCG.

Cricket legend Shane Warne put Labuschagne’s decision to play at the ball down to the extra pace of Wood, who has exceeded the 150k/ph mark on day two.

“It’s the pace of Wood,” Warne said on Fox Cricket.

“He’d normally leave that Marnus Labuschagne, but just the extra pace makes you do funny things, makes you play at balls you’d normally let go.”

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Mark Wood has been rapid.Mark Wood has been rapid.
Mark Wood has been rapid.Source: FOX SPORTS

A flabbergasted Fox Cricket colleague Kerry O’Keeffe said it made the decision to leave Wood out of the second Test in Adelaide all the more perplexing.

“That’s why it’s so mystifying he was left out, Mark Wood, from Adelaide,” O’Keeffe said.

“Here they are two-nil down and he’s making an impact here with his high 140s, but because of the batting they’re two-nil down and defending a skinny total.”

England instead went into the pink ball Test with a revamped five-man seam attack after Stuart Broad and James Anderson came in for Wood and spinner Jack Leach.

The bowling changes however backfired, with a sense of sameness in all four specialist quicks and the all-round option of Ben Stokes.

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Wood and Leach were brought back for the must-win Boxing Day Test and immediately the fast bowler has proved a challenge for Australia’s batsmen.

Warne, who was a master with the ball but also had the unique ability to outfox his opponents with his persona on the field, said it was not just his deeds with the ball that made him an attractive option for Joe Root.

“You can just see his body language too Wood, there’s an extra bit of a follow through, there’s a bit of a stare at the batsman, he’s not saying anything, it’s just good body language, getting in the face of the Australians and letting them know his presence,” Warne said.

“I think when you’ve looked at Mark Wood so far this series he has looked the most threatening bowler of any of them. That’s why we’re all staggered about Adelaide. He brings a lot to the table.”

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Root has used Wood in short spells.

At lunch on day two, Wood had the figures of 1-33 yet most were left surprised the England captain took his fastest bowler off after just two overs having dismissed Labuschagne early in the first session.

“It’s hard to read what the planning from Joe Root here is,” Adam Gilchrist said in commentary for Fox Cricket.

O’Keeffe labelled it “curious” while Warne said Steve Smith would have breathed a “sigh of relief” that Wood was taken off for Stokes.

“I’ll tell you who’s breathing a sigh of relief now, Steve Smith,” Warne said. “The only thing I can think of is if Mark Wood wants to come from the Member’s End and come down from this end, but Jimmy Anderson just started. I don’t understand just the two overs.

“Jimmy (Anderson) bowled a fantastic over last over, so surely they can’t be switching ends. Keeping him fresh. He should be able to bowl three overs, shouldn’t you? You miss a test match so you’re fresh. Now’s the chance, now’s the moment in the game, now’s the opportunity. England are still 91 runs ahead, they’ve got Australia three down, Wood with his tail up, Anderson just bowled a good over.”

Australia made it to lunch at 4-131, with Marcus Harris 48 not out despite 15 plays and misses. Travis Head was 11 not out.

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