AllrounderAllrounder feared his ship had sailed in Test cricket, but now he looks locked in for the Ashes finale.
Three years have passed since Chris Woakes successfully guided England to victory with his bat in a Test match. A total of 84 not out, the most of which came in a 139-run partnership with Jos Buttler, helped Pakistan win the first three-match series by chasing down 277 in the fourth innings. To say that last Sunday’s happenings at Headingley were a world away would be to undersell the occasion. Woakes’ unbroken 32 helped England reach its target of 251 to retain the Ashes. The globe was a completely different place in and of itself.
Back in 2020, the Covid-19 epidemic had abruptly and drastically put an end to life. The ECB built bio-secure bubbles at Emirates Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl to honor their broadcast contracts, restricting that sum to just over £100 million and preventing losses for English cricket in the neighborhood of £380 million. The 2020 summer’s international and domestic games were all held in private. Therefore, Woakes’ first instance of fourth-inning heroics took place without spectators. It was a miniature of the Warwickshire allrounder’sallrounder’s professional life. Even though he has consistently performed well for England in all forms, he rarely receives attention, especially when playing with Ben Stokes. Nevertheless, in Leeds, where Stokes was cheered on by a boisterous filled stadium and a peak audience of 2.05 million on Sky Sports, Woakes produced a measured innings to seal victory by three wickets in the third Test against Australia. At the same time, Stokes watched from the home balcony after being dismissed for 13. It doesn’t get any better than that, Woakes added. “That roar, the Western Terrace is going bonkers. Performing before the Hollies [at Edgbaston] would have been preferable. It’s unique. It’s impeccable. Amazing sensation. You don’t hear the audience as much out there compared to being on the sides. But it’s simply unique. You would keep that in a bottle forever and revisit it. Woakes first took second place to Harry Brook when England’s pursuit was on the verge of failing at 171 for 6, and Brook eventually got out on 75. Afterward, the 34-year-old led alongside Mark Wood as the duo completed the task with 24 off 14 deliveries. Woakes then hit Mitchell Starc through cover-point for the game-winning boundary.
Woakes duly ruled himself out of the IPL to warm up with Warwickshire in the County Championship.
Woakes believed that any part he would play in the climactic sequence would be more akin to Jack Leach’s famous 1 not out in Headingley’s 2019 Ashes Test than the epic 135 not off at the other end that Stokes had scripted on that renowned day after England had closed the previous evening on 27 for 0. They needed another 224 for victory as the fourth day dawned. How did it feel to impersonate the man as he had a more significant role in the events? I’m not aware of it; I’m not aware of that. Woakes reacted angrily to the claim that Stokes’ bravery was comparable to his knock. “I experienced a tiny part of what he experienced at Headingley the previous time. “But to cross the finish line and defeat (Australia) is incredible. These days are always tight, even though you think you’ll be able to cross the finish line as you enter them. There always seems to be a twist coming. When Brooky made an unbelievable knock to get 75 and play the way he did, I thought Brooky and I were coasting. However, there was always a catch, so I’m happy to finish. Woakes made his maiden appearance in this series on March 20, 2022, which was also his first cap since he had feared it would be his last after England’s 1-0 loss to the West Indies, which came after a 4-0 Ashes loss. After only six at 55.30 in Australia, five wickets at 48.80 in the Caribbean felt like the end of the line. Although Stokes, who took over as Test captain at the beginning of the 2022 summer, holds him in high regard, a right knee injury that ultimately necessitated surgery and prevented him from playing during the entire home season appeared to have diverted him entirely to the white-ball path. He would, however, add a T20 World Cup championship medal to his 50-over World Cup medal from 2019 throughout the winter, along with nine additional limited-overs caps in bilateral series. His desire to play more Test cricket, however, remained strong. Woakes duly ruled himself out of the IPL to warm up with Warwickshire in the County Championship. He appeared to be on pace for homecoming against Ireland until the England management decided to try out Josh Tongue from Worcestershire. He was also healthy for the first two Ashes Test matches, but he patiently waited and left a lasting impression in just his first appearance. Not a tailender was among them as he took the key wickets of Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh (twice), Usman Khawaja, and Alex Carey in addition to his runs in the first and second innings, respectively.
Woakes acknowledged that he often wondered if his time was done while always hoping to add to his 45 caps going into this summer. It’s highly emotional, he remarked. “Of course, you sometimes think that the ship has sailed. You are particularly considering how well the squad performed last summer while I was absent due to injuries and other things. You do question whether that ship has left port. However, I made a significant decision at the beginning of the summer not to travel to India, and, you know, days like today make that sort of decision comfortably pay off. Woakes’ inclusion in the lineup for the rest of the series seems obvious, given the balance he brings to the team, relieving some of Stokes’ bowling workload as he continues to treat a persistent left knee injury while lengthening the batting. With 35 overs in the game at a steady tempo, he also demonstrated his durability and stepped up when Ollie Robinson could not bowl in the second innings.
On July 19, the fourth Test will begin, and Woakes will visit Manchester for the first time since that performance in 2020. Even while he isn’t planning too far ahead to preserve his spot, he anticipates that England will arrive with the idea that they can keep up an incredible comeback to win the Ashes. He was particularly considering the strain on Australia to keep things together after entering the third Test with a 2-0 lead. The belief that we can win 3-2 has always been present in that dressing room, according to Woakes. “You shouldn’t plan too far ahead; instead, you should play each ball, each day, each session, and each Test match as it arises. The harder it must be when you’re so close to achieving something, and I’m sure the Australians are experiencing that right now. Crossing the line once you’ve gotten so close to something is challenging. “We must appear in Manchester and deliver another show. They are a perfect side—a bloody terrific side. We’ll need to perform at our highest level to defeat them again.
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