Chris Woakes shows why England are lucky
Chris Woakes could have been England’s best swing bowler for a decade in another era, one without James Anderson. Woakes could have been England’s best seam-bowling all-rounder in another era, one without Ben Stokes. However, it appears that Woakes’ destiny is to be the supporting actor to the Oscar-winning star, the hero’s sidekick, and the comic’s straight man.
Despite his stellar record – he was England’s player of the year in 2020, for example – he had not played a Test in over a year and, if England were at full strength – with Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, and Stokes et al – he would have been available. By all rights, he should be a movie star in his own right. Instead, it appears that when he is recognized in public, people approach him and inquire about what it’s like to play with Stokes.
You can bet Stokes doesn’t get it backward. So it was only natural for him to finish the first day of the LV= Insurance Test at the Kia Oval without a five-for. It wasn’t that he didn’t deserve one – he certainly did – but that it seemed a little odd that he didn’t get the credit he deserved. He has a higher bowling average in England (22.47) than Anderson (24.06) or Broad (25.78), but he has only played 39 Tests at the age of 32. Here, he reminded us of his capabilities. Woakes maintained a probing off-stump line and claimed four wickets on the first day of the match, generating a movement that none of his colleagues, including Anderson, could match, and bowling at a slightly faster pace. He really does demand selection, at least in English conditions.
It had the potential to be even better. Woakes’ bowling resulted in two missed chances, both in a slip cordon that seems to change every time you look at it. Virat Kohli pokes at a beauty that has left him as one of the lucky ones to have survived. How typical of Woakes to beat the best player in the world and still lose his wicket. A late assault from Shardul Thakur also harmed his figures (3-19 from 11 overs at one point).