Chris Woakes – the member of the England team who has executed every plan that was made around him. The first Test in Brisbane was pathetic in overall for England, but they have taken a few steps toward improvement in Adelaide. And when England would discuss its misery in the second Test, Woakes will be one exception who will not bend his head down in shame. Because, he has justified his role as an all-rounder, especially in the absence of Ben Stokes, to the fullest. Stokes is easily among the nicest men in cricket. His success as a medium pacer shows that without the angry-young-man look and the needless overdose of aggression in the attitude, bowlers can taste success in the game.
England can count on him in stressful situations as they know Woakes will never embarrass them, on or off the field.
When there is too much going on in the dressing room and the board needs a player who could handle the press, the first choice is Woakes, always. With his calm, poised and diplomatic nature, Woakes has the ability to handle England’s crisis even in that aspect. If there was any slight doubt in his potential, Woakes with his recent performances with both bat and ball would have cleared any such cloud of doubts. He can not only bowl brisk away-swingers but also can bat as properly as a regular batsman. And to everyone’s surprise, he even outdid Alastair Cook with the batting performance he displayed in the second Test in the ongoing Ashes.
In the first Test in Brisbane, Cook had not survived for even 20 balls in an innings. He somehow managed to get a start in Adelaide where he went on to play 90 balls. Cook, from the beginning, struggled to time the ball well; due to lack of form, impatience was seen in his shots and eventually he threw away his wicket. When England needed their best batsman to stick around till the end, Cook succumbed to a nonessential stroke when he pushed at a Lyon-off-break and edged to Smith at slip on 37. The next six batsmen did not cross the 20-run mark and suddenly Captain Joe Root’s mistake of choosing to bowl first seemed like a blunder.
When England began their innings, it looked like a vastly improved tourist side but then they committed the usual mistakes to toughen the situation for themselves. A series of poor shot selection, all the more terrible execution of the plan and impatient behaviour in each and every batsman negated the good start they had had. Then came in Woakes and debutant Craig Overton; even before they had started, everybody had expected the England innings to wrap soon but a surprise awaited the Australians.
Starc and Co tried to break Woakes with a series of short balls, while the English man was always ready with a quick response, he would either leave it or treat it with a pull shot for a boundary. Out of Woakes’ four boundaries, two came off short balls from Starc. The highlight of his shorts was when, off Hazlewood’s bowling, he went down on one knee and flashed the ball through the point to yet another four. These kinds of shot selection were more expected from the likes of Cook, Root and Bairstow, but all of them just added to England’s embarrassment with their display of poor batting.
Although England, anyway, managed only 227 runs at the end in reply to Australia’s 442. Maybe, that was not enough but Woakes and Overton’s stand of 64 for the eighth wicket need acknowledgement. Without these two’s contribution, England’s first innings in Adelaide would have been more of a humiliation.
Woakes, as gentle and modest a man as you will meet in the sporting world, is never cowed by the trash talk and England’s baiting tactic. However, the heat of the Ashes brought the best out of Woakes too, who could not resist but get involved in the verbal banters when Australia came out to bat for the second time in Adelaide. There is a vast difference in Woakes’s tactics at home and overseas; however, the significant point is that he performed well with both bat and ball.
After the 62-ball 36 he scored, he dismissed Australia’s best batsmen – David Warner and Steven Smith – under the lights. He even dismissed Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine, the two batsmen who shared a 85-run stand in the first innings, helping Australia revive themselves. It was the second time Woakes had dismissed Warner in this Test. Woakes was a huge support on the other hand to Anderson, who finally produced some real swing bowling. The two together bundled Australia out to 138. However, the hosts had enough lead which meant England needs 354 runs to win the Adelaide Test. England, being three down already, with Cook once again gone early, they might need Woakes to come up with some magical innings down the order.