Mark Wood on Cricket World Cup, Durham and England v Australia

Mark Wood

First, some personal news.

I’ve signed a new three-year contract with Durham, the county that first gave me a chance when I joined their academy at the age of 17.

I’m passionate about the club and have a lot of pride when I play for them. I’m delighted to sign a new deal.

It comes after our last World Cup group game, the win over New Zealand, was at my home ground in Chester-le-Street.

Here, I’ll tell you why that was one of the best days of my career, how my first club Ashington have been helping me prepare for the semi-finals, and what it will be like to face Australia at Edgbaston.

Jury out on my songwriting

One of the reasons I wanted to stay at Durham was because of occasions like the New Zealand game, which, apart from my Test debut, was the proudest I’ve ever been on a cricket field.

To sing the national anthem on my home pitch, with my mam and dad, wife and so many friends watching was an incredible feeling.

Not only that, but it was a beautiful, sunny day, the ground was packed and we put in a brilliant performance in what was effectively a quarter-final.

Lots of people have talked about the run-out of Kane Williamson, where I stuck out a hand in my follow through and got a fingertip to the ball before it hit the non-striker’s stumps.

Kane doesn’t know how unlucky he was to be out like that – because I have tiny hands. However, he’s one of the best I’ve ever bowled to, so I’ll take getting him out whatever way I can.

After the game was won and we had secured our place in the last four, to walk off the field and be able to wave to everyone I knew was great.

Then, after the match, everyone in the team was buzzing that we had played so well. Often, when we play at home, people will drift off after games because they are keen to get to their own beds, especially with a place like Durham being such a long drive for most of the lads.

This time, everyone stayed behind for a drink at the hotel bar. It was lovely to be able to reflect on what we had done. With having more than a week between games, we were able to enjoy the moment, rather than have to start thinking about the next game really quickly.

The other thing that came out of the New Zealand match was the Barmy Army singing the song I wrote about Liam Plunkett.

If I’m honest, that song has had some mixed reviews, so the jury is still out on my skills as a songwriter.

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Home comforts

Since the last game, I’ve made my debut on the Tailenders podcast with Jimmy Anderson, Greg James and Felix White.

I don’t think we talked about cricket once, but focused more on the songs that Jimmy and I came up with during the 2015 Ashes, when Trevor Bayliss asked us to write one for the team to sing. It was a fun show, and you can listen to it right here.

With there being such a long gap between games, I needed a way to keep up my bowling rhythm, so I went to bowl some overs at Ashington, the club where I first played.

Bizarrely, they had a free week on Saturday, so I asked the groundsman if I could bowl there, then went through my routine under the watch of Stevie Williams, who first coached me when I was eight years old.

Stevie took me right through the juniors, then into the first team. He still says the same things and brings me back down to earth.

There will be lots of people who play club cricket, wondering what it is like to become a professional and play for England.

I can honestly say that I would still be playing for Ashington if I wasn’t lucky enough to bowl fast.

Yes, the quality is different, the pressure is higher and the scrutiny is more intense – but dressing rooms rarely change.

Whether it’s England, Durham or Ashington, the dynamic remains the same. Each team has its characters, bad jokes and banter.

I like to think that I’m still one of the lads at Ashington, especially because a lot of my friends are still there.

On Sunday, the second team had a cup semi-final at Jesmond & Newcastle – the ‘posh club’, as our lads call it. I went along to watch and loved seeing them get the win.

That has been the cricket side of my life since the last game, but even in a World Cup there are still normal things to do – tidy the garden, visit the dentist, search B&Q for some new doors.

On Saturday night, I went to a wedding of some friends of my wife. I didn’t know loads of the guests there, but I still got plenty of support.

People were wishing me luck and telling me to make sure we beat the Aussies. Even at a wedding, you can’t switch off, but it’s brilliant that so many are interested in what we are doing and wanting us to do well.

I want to make the country proud

Mark Wood celebrates a wicket against New Zealand with England captain Eoin Morgan

And so to Edgbaston and a World Cup semi-final against Australia, which will be the biggest game of my career.

The hosts against the old enemy; the defending champions against the team that started out as favourites.

I’ve been asked if it’s better that we’re playing Australia rather than India, but I really didn’t mind who we got in the last four.

Regardless of the opponents, the whole team would have felt the same – up for it, a little bit nervous, desperate to do well.

What is exciting is to be playing at Edgbaston, which has become a bit of a fortress for us. We managed to beat Australia in the Champions Trophy here a couple of years ago, so hopefully we can have the same result this time around.

We’re actually staying in the same hotel as the Australia team. You’re always polite when you see the opposition around, especially because the various Twenty20 leagues around the world mean you get to know players.

For example, there was a bit of back and forth between me and Shane Watson before the 2015 Ashes, but I’ve since played with him for Chennai in the Indian Premier League and found out that he is one of the nicest blokes.

Similarly, David Warner once played for Durham. I was on the academy at the time, but I know that he was really well received.

They are just normal guys.

However, all of that gets left behind when we get to the ground. The pleasantries will be discarded and we will have to be ready for the Aussies to be in our faces.

That’s fine, because we know if we play our best cricket, we can beat anyone.

We are two games away from winning the World Cup. Is that nerve-wracking? It’s actually a greater feeling of excitement.

I want to give it a good go and get stuck in. Not only that, but I want to make my family proud, the fans proud and the country proud.

Mark Wood was speaking to BBC Sport’s Stephan Shemilt.

ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup: England v Australia
Venue: Edgbaston Date: 11 July Start: 10:30 BST
Coverage: Watch in-play clips & highlights on the BBC Sport website & app; live Test Match Special radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra & BBC Sport website

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BBC Sport – Cricket

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