ASHINGTON youngster Mark Wood made his first class debut for Durham Cricket Club last week in the three-day win over Durham MCC Universities at the Racecourse.
Wood, 21, is in his fourth year with the county after linking up from his home town club and is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Harmison brothers, Stephen and Ben who are also from Wansbeck.
Last season, Wood played for both the academy and second team at Durham and is determined to continue his progress and realise an ambition.
He said: “Since I was very young it’s always been my ambition to be a cricketer and when I became 17 it started to get a little bit more professional when I went to Durham.
“Before that I was playing for Ashington and Northumberland, and when I got into the Durham set up, I realised that this was something which I could do for a living.”
If he did not get his break as a cricketer, Wood had thoughts of being a PE teacher as he wanted to work in sport, but having joined the Durham set-up his approach has changed.
He added: “All I’ve focused on is to be the best cricketer I can be.”
The youngster went to Goldcoast in Australia during the winter of 2009 where he played for Palm Beach.
“It was a fantastic experience,” he said.
“Australia was not only a good cricketing experience but a good lifestyle experience.
“I’d never been away from home before and living and playing cricket out there taught me a lot of new things.
“I also went to India this past winter for a couple of weeks.”
As for his first class debut, Wood said: “I was surprised to get my call up. I was in the 12-man squad and I thought I might get a game as the team had just come back from Dubai.
“I was warming up beforehand then I got the call from Geoff Cook and the captain Dale Benkenstein, who said “Woody – you’re in.”
“After that I was shocked and a little bit nervous but pleased to get my debut.”
Wood came on as first change for Mitchell Claydon.
“My first ball I was really nervous but then after that was out the way, I settled in and it was a case of bowling in the right areas.
“Then I got my first wicket. The ball was nipping around a bit but this one swung back and he chipped it to Mitchell Claydon at mid-on and that gave me a massive confidence boost.
“Tom Westley became my second wicket - a lad who plays first class cricket at Essex - where he nicked one behind to the wicketkeeper.
“I felt like I had good rhythm and bowled really well and was probably unlucky not to get a couple more wickets.”
Wood finished with 2-26 from 13 overs, four of which were maidens.
Batting wise, the youngster scored 16 from 20 balls.
“I just tried to be positive,” he said.
“We were ahead in the game and in command. Again I was nervous but once I got that first run out of the way, I tried to be as positive as I could and to show my ability.
“Confidence is a key thing with the first team.
“It’s a cracking team environment wise and I just wanted to try and prove myself.”
Wood, who was presented with his county cap before the game, is hoping to use his debut as a springboard.
“Obviously receiving my cap from captain Dale Benkenstein and club captain Phil Mustard with the other Durham players surrounding me was a proud moment,” he said.
“If I can take this performance on – and I thought I did quite well – and if I perform consistently in the second team then hopefully I will get another chance in the senior side and take my opportunity.”
Academy manager John Windows said: “Mark has worked incredibly hard over the last two years to turn himself with plenty of energy and ability into a first team player now.
“He came through the ranks of Northumberland as a batsman who bowled enthusiastically with plenty of energy.
“We have refined his action and last year Mark worked hard to turn himself into a front line batsman.
“I was not surprised that he made his debut.
“He played for the seconds last year when surrounded by first team players and didn’t look out of place.
“He has been hampered by niggling injuries but his ability has never been in question. I’m sure he will be knocking on first team door and will be one to watch this season.
“Northumberland have a high quality coaching set up and we are fortunate at Durham that a long list of players including Stephen and Ben Harmison and Gordon Muchall have come through their ranks.”