Chris Woakes takes six wick­ets for Eng­land in fi­nal Ashes warm-up

The Guardian Australia - - Technology / Sport - Will Macpher­son at the Tony Ire­land Sta­dium

“Who needs Stokes when you’ve got Woakes?” came the cry from the grand­stand at Townsville’s charm­ing Tony Ire­land Sta­dium, on the day when Eng­land even got an un­ex­pected first look at their third rhyming all-rounder, Ben Foakes. It was far from the day’s most inane Ben Stokes-based sledge Eng­land were sent and had at least a morsel of truth – even if both re­ally would be handy – be­cause Chris Woakes bowled beau­ti­fully in tak­ing six for 58 as the cal­low Cricket Aus­tralia XI reached stumps on 249 for nine.

Woakes bowls as quickly as any­one Eng­land have here and looked even tastier than he did in Ade­laide. At a toss con­ducted by the mayor, which was fol­lowed by a bit of didgeri­doo ac­tion, Eng­land were asked to bowl and Woakes was pleased with their ef­forts on an­other painfully placid sur­face. “We had to be pa­tient,” he said. “We felt like we had to sit in for a while and force them to make a mis­take. It’s flat, and slow in pace. A Test wicket will be quicker than that.”

He was de­lighted that they found swing, even with the Kook­aburra ball, and be­lieves – with all the talk about whether bowlers are un­deror over­cooked – that he is peak­ing at the right time. “All the num­bers are say­ing I’m get­ting close to get­ting cooked,” he said. “I’m pleased with where my body is at and get­ting overs in the legs is im­por­tant.”

Hav­ing bowled five luck­less overs with the new ball (which, of course, he should not get too at­tached to), Woakes twice struck with the first ball of later spells. The first of those spells started shortly be­fore lunch, with CA cruis­ing at 66 with­out loss, and brought four for eight in 22 balls either side of the break.

Nick Larkin, the owner of the only first-class cen­tury in CA’s side, and Jake Carder had played well enough but Woakes dis­missed them in suc­ces­sive overs to leave the lunch score 82 for two. Larkin was caught very well by James Vince in the gully, above head height and div­ing, while Carder was caught be­hind fend­ing.

Woakes’s next wicket was caught be­hind too but by a dif­fer­ent keeper. In the over af­ter lunch a Woakes de­liv­ery scut­tled and caught Jonny Bairstow on his left mid­dle fin­ger, caus­ing bruis­ing that forced him from the field fear­ing worse. Af­ter 10 min­utes of treat­ment and chang­ing, Foakes ap­peared to stand in. This would not have been pos­si­ble just a few weeks ago – the MCC over­turned the rule pre­vent­ing 12th men from act­ing as wick­et­keeper in Oc­to­ber.

Foakes was out there for 11 overs across 50 min­utes, as mild panic calmed about Bairstow’s con­di­tion – if Eng­land are to stand a chance in Stokes’s ab­sence, they must keep ship-shape the keeper and re­main­ing all-rounders, Moeen Ali and Woakes, who said he had not even been con­cerned enough about the in­jury to check on the con­di­tion of his room­mate on tour. Fifty min­utes was long enough for Foakes, who might well have played 30 Tests by now were he Aus­tralian, to tidily take Ryan Gib­son. Woakes’s tight line earned that wicket and he had Ja­son Sangha lbw two balls later, too.

Some re­sis­tance fol­lowed from Matt Short and Harry Nielsen but Woakes made the lat­ter his fifth wicket, again caught well by Vince in the gully (where he would sharply take Gurinder Sandhu late on to give Stu­art Broad a wicket, too). Woakes’s sixth was Si­mon Milenko, who looked good in Ade­laide but was at sea here. He had his leg stump re­moved by the new ball’s first de­liv­ery. Both Nielsen and Milenko had been ruf­fled by Woakes’s short ball.

Moeen saw his first com­pet­i­tive ac­tion of the tour in the 11th over of the match and proved ca­pa­ble of plug­ging an end with­out pro­duc­ing many chances, while his side caused him no ob­vi­ous dis­com­fort. Ma­son Crane was less tidy but re­cov­ered well and had the cap­tain, Short, dropped twice off his bowl­ing. On 25, he cut hard to Mark Stone­man close at point, with the fielder do­ing well just to get a hand to it, but Joe Root’s op­por­tu­nity when he had 36 was far sim­pler at slip. Straight in, straight out. Slip to the spin­ner is an­other hole left by Stokes’s ab­sence.

Root did even­tu­ally snaf­fle Short, who poked Craig Over­ton to sec­ond slip promptly af­ter bring­ing up a neat 118-ball half-cen­tury. Crane took some rau­cously re­ceived tap late on

from Dan Fallins, with the fi­nal over of the day slogged for 16. Alas­tair Cook, short on runs, might pri­vately have been re­lieved that CA ended the day nine down.

Even as Jake Ball’s come­back from in­jury con­tin­ued by bowl­ing off a few paces in the nets, Over­ton – who had ear­lier had Will Pu­cov­ski caught be­hind – took an­other step towards the Test side. While he has no great pace, he has an ac­tion that is re­peat­able and rem­i­nis­cent of Tim Bres­nan and a swift bouncer, and he has proven mighty tricky to score off since find­ing the right length in Ade­laide last week – here, his 18 overs cost just 32. Eng­land have re­ally found one if his im­pact is any­thing like Bres­nan’s in 2010-11.

Eng­land’s Chris Woakes, right, re­acts af­ter tak­ing his sixth wicket, dis­miss­ing Cricket Aus­tralia XI bats­man Si­mon Milenko. Pho­to­graph: Dave Hunt/AAP

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