Woakes shines both with the bat and ball…..
Chris Woakes is the latest and seventh Englishman to register his name in the Lord’s Honours Board for both batting and bowling. For his two five-wicket hauls against Pakistan back in 2016, his name was already there in that prestigious board as a bowler. On Saturday, he made his entry over there as a batsman with a maiden Test century against the Indians. In fact, now he is only the second player after Sir Ian Botham to take five wickets in an innings, 10 wickets in a match and score a century in Tests at the ‘Home of Cricket’.
Following an average outing against Pakistan at Leeds earlier this summer and battling a knee injury, this has been an ideal return to England red-ball set-up for the Warwickshire all-rounder. And remember, he only got that opportunity because Ben Stokes was not available.
Well, Woakes certainly made it count, first with the ball taking 2 for 19 in the first innings including the big scalp of Virat Kohli, followed by an unbeaten 137 with bat, bailing out England from 131 for 5 along with Jonny Baristow.
“It has been a frustrating summer so far, missing quite a bit of cricket,” said Woakes in a chat with the media following the end of day’s play. “I was over the moon to get the call to be back in the squad. I could never really have dreamt of scoring a hundred in my comeback Test. With five or six weeks out injured, you’re watching the boys all summer and you want to be out there.”
Coming into this game, the Woakes’ eagerness of getting onto the field and performing for the country was clearly evident. For England, it was a toss-up between Moeen Ali and him. Finally, with the overhead conditions in mind, they went ahead with a seamer all-rounder and it paid off.
During India’s first innings, Woakes bowled first change and was literally unplayable. He was bowling those classical banana swings to the right-handers with the semi-new ball. Yes, it was overcast, drizzling a bit, perfect conditions for the swing bowlers and he pitched the ball up. The wicket did the rest as Woakes returned with figures of 2 for 19 in his six overs.
However, while batting, things were no so easygoing for him. With England, five down for a lead of just 20 odd runs just after Lunch, the game was wide open. Indian bowlers, especially the pacers like Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma were in rhythm, bowling the in-between length and troubling the English batsmen. Amid such circumstance, Woakes was promoted ahead of Sam Curran, who was the hero of the last match. He joined Bairstow at the crease and shared a match-defining 189-run stand for the sixth wicket.
Well, that was more or less the game for England.
The key of Woakes’ batting was his strike-rate. He played a counter-attacking game to put Kohli’s men under presser right away. The skipper had to push fielders back, which eased the job of the duo.
Woakes was particularly impressive while handling India’s spin duo – Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav. For the entire summer, the English batsmen struggled to dominate the wrist-spin of Kuldeep. But Woakes, who must have played in the nets of Kolkata Knight Riders, had no issue tackling him or the off-spinner. Also, with the soft ball and in wet conditions, the spinners did not get much bounce or turn out of the pitch.
“There wasn’t a huge amount of turn there, so when the spinners were on we felt we’d done our job,” said Woakes, “I wasn’t looking too much at the scoreboard in terms of what lead we needed. But the ball got a little bit softer, and it made it a little bit easier.”
In the end, Woakes reached his ton in just 129 balls, a tremendous achievement in the contest of the game one must feel. And primarily thanks to his efforts, England are on the verge of making it 2-0 in the series. And unlike prior perceptions, Stokes was not missed.
Well, first time as a father, perhaps things couldn’t have been much ideal Woakes.