Five-wicket Wood thankful for Holding hint as England press home advantage

By Sports Desk January 26, 2020

England paceman Mark Wood sealed the second five-wicket haul of his Test career and then thanked West Indies great Michael Holding for a priceless piece of advice.

Wood's probing returned figures of 5-46 at The Wanderers as South Africa were all out for 183 on day three of the fourth Test, before England posted 248 in their second innings to set the hosts a world-record run chase.

South Africa will have two days to get the 466 runs they require to win the match and draw the series, but it is a tall order.

And with Wood showing sizzling form with the ball, South Africa may struggle to take the contest to a fifth day.

Asked about his bowling display, Wood said: "I'm over the moon."

Returning from knee and side injuries to reclaim his England place, a conversation Wood had with Holding yielded a morsel of great wisdom from the man who took 249 wickets for West Indies in 60 Tests.

By lengthening his run-up, Wood has taken some of the explosive element out of his action, which should help on the fitness front, and the suggestion came from 65-year-old Holding.

Wood told Sky Sports: "I wish I'd changed my run-up sooner. Some guy did mention it to me..."

With a nod to Holding, who is working for the broadcaster, Wood explained: "He said, 'You're putting too much strain on your body, lengthen your run-up', and since I've done that it's been a lot better.

"I've got a little bit more momentum. It takes a little bit more pressure off my body, whereas off my short run it felt like I had to force it. You're not going to have rhythm every day when you're running in.

"The days where I didn't quite feel it, I was still having to force it and I was putting that extra strain on my body, so it's been nice to take a load off and just feel my way in but still bowl quickly.

"I was stubborn to change it because it had worked for me up to a point. But if I was going to play more cricket or if I was going to improve, I was going to have to change something.

"I just felt it was the right time for me to change it. I wish I had done it earlier, but it's all in the past now."

England's second innings saw opener Dom Sibley make 44, with captain Joe Root adding 58 and all-rounder Sam Curran plundering a rapid 35.

Curran hailed Wood's efforts and reflected the mood in the camp by stressing the tourists are on a high, with their victory prospects looking strong.

Curran told the BBC's Test Match Special podcast: "It's a great position to be in at the close, maybe we would have liked to have been batting tomorrow, but the lead is nice.

"It was nice to have a bit of fun out there with Rooty. Woody with five wickets, what a man, the team is so happy, he's one of the great guys in cricket. For him to come back from injury and get five is amazing."

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    Siya Kolisi says it is vital Nelson Mandela's legacy continues as the South Africa captain opened up on his role in helping the country fight coronavirus.

    Kolisi, who skippered the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory last year, was due to launch his foundation later in 2020.

    The outbreak of COVID-19 has launched Kolisi into immediate action and he has partnered with others to make donations to provide vital supplies to frontline medical workers tackling the crisis.

    An Instagram post from the flanker's foundation last week explained: "Whilst the Kolisi Foundation was months from launching with different projects in mind, we couldn't ignore the seriousness of COVID-19 so began to focus our energy and resources on supporting our frontline workers – supplying sanitisers and reusable masks. 

    "We are thankful that we have been able to lean on our incredible partners to support the project and will look to partner with other established organisations in the future to guarantee our work is as impactful as possible, addressing hunger and other areas close to our heart."

    Kolisi said part of his motivation is ensuring the work of former president Mandela continues.

    "I just think his legacy must still continue, the rainbow nation he wanted to see,"he told BBC Breakfast.

    "Actually working partnering up with the foundation, helping the frontline workers, we're all trying to attack the hunger and help the workers. 

    "Just thinking of other people, the way he lived his life, he always wanted to make South Africa better, that's what we're trying to realise to make sure his legacy continues and because we have a beautiful country, so much potential, we can achieve so much. 

    "Hopefully can inspire other people too."

    Kolisi is drawing on his own experiences of playing as part of a team to aid a country that has had over 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has one of the world's strictest lockdowns.

    "It's really tough and I think playing in a team squad, this is going to be a team effort from everyone in South Africa and everyone in general, I think everybody has a role to play," he added. 

    "It's a time for people to stay at home and not leave our houses, we have a complete lockdown our president has acted swiftly. 

    "I think for people who are in a fortunate basis who can help others, food is a big problem at the moment, we're pushing hard on fighting the hunger, making sure people get meals there are a lot kids who go to school just to get one meal.

    "I'm trying to provide for that and making sure we help as much as we can."

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