THE latest cricketer off the Ashington production line has revealed the part the most famous played in his development.
Fast-bowler Mark Wood made his County Championship debut at Nottinghamshire’s Trent Bridge, taking five wickets, scoring 45 not out with the bat and impressing with his cool head.
His performance was the big positive as Durham slumped to a defeat which all but ended their LV County Championship title chances.
With his short frame, bustling action and assured batting, Wood is very different in style from Stephen Harmison.
However, the double-winning Ashes hero is a good friend of Wood and has played a key part in the 21-year-old’s development.
Wood who, like Harmison, went to Ashington High School – albeit much later – said: “I have known him since I was a young lad.
“He is a family friend and someone to talk to.
“He has played for England and he has great knowledge about the game.
“You turn to him and when he gives you advice you listen.”
It was thanks to Harmison’s encouragement Wood made one of his most important career decisions – to spend a winter in Australia.
In 2009 Wood played for Palm Beach on Australia’s Goldcoast.
He learned so much from the trip he will be back again for more in the coming off-season.
Wood who, like his uncle Neil is a former Northumberland player, said: “Stephen gave me advice about going abroad to Australia.
“He said it was a good move and he gave me bits of advice on my run-up and things like that.
“He has always been involved and good enough to give me tips.
“On Australia he just said rather than spend the winter at home it would be good to go away and learn different conditions and styles.
“I learnt a lot because it does not swing as much as it does over here.”
Wood impressed on tour in Dubai in the build-up to the campaign and marked his first-class debut at Durham University in their final warm-up match before the Championship kicked off, taking two wickets.
Forty-over appearances against Northamptonshire, Scotland and Leicestershire followed, but it was a match-winning performance against Sri Lanka A Wood is most proud of.
He made a second-innings 48 in a crucial 114-run partnership with Liam Plunkett to win the four-day friendly.
He added: “That was a game where I thought if I could bat well I could secure my number eight or nine spot.
“Scoring those runs was a big plus point.”
Coach Geoff Cook has faith in the youngster’s potential.
Cook, who helped Harmison, Plunkett and Graeme Onions from Durham’s academy into England’s Test team said: “He is a lively character. He is a bit of a free spirit – a very positive player.”