An Ashington born cricketer has been called up to the England Lions squad to tour Sri Lanka.
Mark Wood spoke of his immense pride and described his selection as being the perfect Christmas present.
And for the 23-year-old Ashington-based pace bowler who in May put pen to paper on a new three-year contract with Durham, it is another step towards fulfilling a boyhood ambition of playing for the senior England side.
Wood who came through the ranks at Ashington Cricket Club and played for Northumberland, before joining Durham Academy, which led to him being awarded a professional deal with the Riverside outfit, will fly out towards the end of January as part of a 15-man squad.
They will play two warm-up matches against a Sri Lanka ‘A’ team of emerging players in Colombo.
The party will then travel to Kandy for the first of three four-day matches against Sri Lanka ‘A’ with the others being staged in Dambulla and Colombo.
Right arm pace bowler Wood, whose quickest delivery was logged at 90.4mph in a one day clash against Essex at the Riverside last term, said: “I received the call-up a week before Christmas – and it came as a surprise but was the perfect Christmas present.
“I thought I had impressed in the winter training and I was champing at the bit, so it was great news.
“I feel immensely proud and am delighted to be given the opportunity.
“I’m excited yet at the same time nervous because playing for the Lions is one team under the full England side.
“If I can do well over in Sri Lanka it will give me a chance for the future and it is the ultimate dream and goal of any cricketer to play for the senior England side.”
Wood’s parents, Derek and Angie, are also ecstatic with the news, whilst Wood revealed that he had spoken to Durham and England team mate Graham Onions and his two-time Ashes winning Wansbeck colleague, Steve Harmison.
“They both told me just to be myself and to change nothing,” he said.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, who is also a good friend of the Wood family, said: “Once again it is fantastic that we have got someone from our area representing sport at International level. Mark is a fantastic cricketer and tremendous bowler and I wish him all the very best.
“He is extremely talented and deserves to be where he is, and like with Steve Harmison in past years, we need to get behind him and give him the encouragement and support that he needs.
“Let’s hope Mark makes a good go of it.”
Meanwhile Scott Borthwick, Wood’s close mate at Durham, has also been selected for the five-week tour.