Woakes con­firms qual­ity in join­ing ex­clu­sive club

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Second Test - By Tim Wig­more

Be­fore the fi­nal day at Old Traf­ford, Chris Woakes gave an in­sight into his ap­proach. “It’s easy to try to chase it,” he said. “We kept try­ing to pass our spells on; tried not to get too greedy to­wards the back end.”

This was the fa­mous All Blacks mantra – leave the jersey in a better place – in minia­ture. And while Eng­land’s se­ries-lev­el­ling vic­tory in Manch­ester was de­fined by the deeds of Ben Stokes, it was also an­other re­minder of the al­to­gether less obtrusive qual­i­ties of an­other all-rounder.

A few hours be­fore Eng­land sealed vic­tory, Woakes got a de­liv­ery to seam in to Shane Dowrich, who had shuf­fled across his stumps. Dowrich missed, and um­pire Michael Gough judged that the ball was hit­ting his stumps.

In this mo­ment, Woakes joined a se­lect group of crick­eters. Only 71 play­ers have both scored 1,000 runs and taken 100 wick­ets in Tests. Woakes got there in his 34th

Test – the 19th-fastest, and thirdquick­est English­man. Stokes and An­drew Flintoff took nine Tests more; even Sir Garfield Sobers took longer than Woakes. Of course, these num­bers do not say that Woakes is better – but they do show how, over seven years of his Test ca­reer, he has thrust him­self into fine com­pany.

To call Woakes un­der­rated long ago en­tered the realm of tired cliche. And it is not re­ally true, either. “Not at all,” said Joe Root, his captain. “We all know what he’s ca­pa­ble of do­ing. He’s proved with bat and ball across the for­mats that he’s in­valu­able to our group.”

Yet there is still a ten­dency to slightly brush over Woakes’s phe­nom­e­nal record at home. In 20 Tests in Eng­land, he has now taken 75 wick­ets at 22.9 apiece – a su­pe­rior av­er­age to Stu­art Broad and James An­der­son. When play­ing in Eng­land, he has sel­dom lost much by com­par­i­son with either: Broad av­er­ages higher, 24.2, in Woakes’s home Tests. Over the past three years at home, Woakes swings and seams the ball more than Broad.

This is the 10th home se­ries in which Woakes has been in­volved; Eng­land have yet to lose any. The cu­rios­ity, per­haps, is why – es­pe­cially with a Test bat­ting av­er­age of 26.3, only one less than Mark Ram­prakash and five less than Flintoff – Woakes has played only 19 of the 43 home Tests since his de­but.

The an­swer is part in­op­por­tune in­juries, part a per­cep­tion that he is a lit­tle too sim­i­lar to Broad and An­der­son, and part Woakes suf­fer­ing for his away form. His away av­er­age, 51.6, is the worst of any bowler to 100 Test wick­ets. But while he has found the Kook­aburra ball far less con­ducive to his qual­i­ties than the Dukes, there were signs last win­ter – in his fuller length, de­vel­op­ment of the wob­ble-seam de­liv­ery and oc­ca­sional well-di­rected bounc­ers – of a bowler who can now suc­ceed in all climes.

Had the Stokes family never em­i­grated from New Zealand, Woakes could have been es­tab­lished at No 7 in a five-man Eng­land at­tack. In­stead, Woakes has been the per­fect crick­eter, and per­son­al­ity, for the age of in­ter­na­tional cricket as a squad game.

“He’s one of the most con­sis­tent blokes on and off the field,” Root said. “He’s Mr De­pend­able – some­one that you can al­ways rely on and know what you’re go­ing to get.”

For all the fo­cus on Broad af­ter his omis­sion at the Ageas Bowl, Woakes had al­most as im­pres­sive a re­turn. Broad took six for 108 in the match; Woakes took five for 76, and was more eco­nom­i­cal, too. The up­shot was that he kept his home Test bowl­ing av­er­age be­low Broad’s. Darren Gough, who has worked as a bowl­ing con­sul­tant for Eng­land, last month sug­gested Woakes could re­place An­der­son as “the fig­ure­head at the top” of the at­tack. At 31, Woakes could yet get a few years as the glue in Eng­land’s Test at­tack. Or per­haps, like Andy Mur­ray play­ing in the age of ten­nis’s “Big Three”, his tim­ing will just prove off.

Lit­tle mat­ter. Woakes has been in­te­gral to Eng­land’s maiden World Cup win – he took six for 57 across the semi-fi­nal and fi­nal – and an es­sen­tial part of their six-year un­beaten Test run at home, even when his con­tri­bu­tion has been to push those in the side to im­prove to fight him off.

“It is in­cred­i­ble what you can achieve, if you don’t care who gets the credit,” Harry Tru­man once said. Woakes’s ca­reer has em­bod­ied as much.

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