England arrived in India a week before the tournament’s opening game, flying to Guwahati via Dubai and Mumbai after nearly two weeks off following their 3-1 series win over New Zealand. Their coaching staff were involved in a rain-ruined 1-0 win over Ireland immediately before departure, with all players rested.
Then, their first warm-up match, against India, was abandoned without a ball bowled, and their second, against Bangladesh, was reduced to 37 overs per side. England flew across the country and arrived in Ahmedabad on Tuesday afternoon, and went into Thursday’s game after a light training session on Wednesday.
Their seamers were uncharacteristically loose with the new ball during New Zealand’s run chase, with Chris Woakes particularly guilty of straying from the top-of-the-stumps length that had brought Matt Henry success. Wood himself returned figures of 0 for 55 from five overs, and Eoin Morgan was among those to suggest England looked “undercooked”.
But Wood said that England’s preparation had not been an issue, and that they had simply been outplayed. “I’m not going to use any excuses,” he said. “It was a tough journey, but no excuses: we were beaten by a better team. It doesn’t matter if we’d had one day to prepare or three weeks: if we get beaten like that, we shouldn’t have any excuses.
“They played well and we were off it. That can happen in international sport. We weren’t quite right and they played really well… I don’t think our preparation was poor. We prepared well – it was just on the day, we haven’t performed as we’d have liked.”
Wood’s own preparation for the World Cup was limited by injury. He bruised his heel during the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval and his recovery took longer than expected: he skipped the Hundred in August, and did not feature in England’s bilateral series against New Zealand last month.
He was brought on for the seventh over of New Zealand’s chase, by which stage they were 37 for 1 in pursuit of 283, and hit 94.6mph/152.2kph in his first over. But his first ball was clipped for four by Devon Conway and his fifth hooked for six by Rachin Ravindra; after his first three-over spell, his figures were 0 for 38.
Wood said he felt fine physically, but “a bit battered mentally from watching the ball going over my head a lot of times”. He said: “I found when I was bowling, the margin was small. If I was a bit off, they hit me for four or six. It’s small margins: if that top edge gets caught at fine leg, or there’s a couple of ones at midwicket which go to hand, it looks totally different.
“But it didn’t, and they played great shots. The times you thought you hit the top of the stumps, it was driven past you. They were really good. It’s just part of the game. Sometimes you hold your hands up and say, ‘Look, they were better than us tonight’. And that’s the way it was.”
England’s two recent World Cup wins – in the 2019 edition of this competition, and in last year’s T20 World Cup – have come after surprise group-stage defeats left them close to elimination. “We’ve got to show that resilience again,” Wood said. “We’ll have to draw on it.
“A great trait of the group is resilience and bouncing back, and calmness within the group. I trust every member in there: they’ve been through bad times and good times. [We’ll use it] to prove that we want to keep this trophy, to prove people wrong and there’ll be question marks now. But as a group, we believe in each other and it’s another chance for us to show how good a side we are.”
England flew to Dharamsala on a charter flight on Thursday afternoon and will have a rest day on Friday, before preparations begin for their day game against Bangladesh on Tuesday.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98