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Wickets tally satisfy Chris Woakes over column inches

by  Siany  •  Last updated on 2020-08-04 14:38:52

A piece in The Financial Times over the weekend said Test cricket was undergoing somewhat of a resurgence after the England-West Indies series last month. The domestic football season has finished and other sports are not yet fully up and running while a number of sports, including football, have been mired in unflattering issues of their own making. As a result, the virtues of Test cricket took centre stage for a change. Chris Woakes, however, is a cricketer who is perfectly happy to remain in the background.

That's a good thing, really. Arguably, Woakes very often doesn't get the attention and recognition his exploits deserve. He was a crucial piece of England's World Cup win last summer, the leader of their attack, for instance. At home, his average with the ball in Test cricket is 22.53. He took a fourth five-wicket haul in 21 Tests in England in the deciding third Test against West Indies at Emirates Old Trafford last week. He is a fine all-round cricketer and yet he rarely elicits much comment. "Honestly I really, really don't mind," he said on Monday (August 3). "I'm not one for being the centre of attention."

Woakes's attitude shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of ambition or desire to do well, of course. It's simply that he takes his satisfaction not from the amount of column inches he gets but from the number of wickets he takes. "Don't get me wrong, I want to go on the field and perform and I want to make match-winning performances for England," he said. "But it really doesn't bother me if I'm first choice to write about or not, to be brutally honest. My stats have been mentioned, they are very good in England and I want to keep working on those, keep improving on them, keep them as good as they can be."

After a break of a little over a week, England resume their Test match season on Wednesday with the start of a three-Test series against Pakistan. Competition for places in the fast-bowling department is fierce after good showings from Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran against West Indies, as well as Woakes himself. If Ben Stokes is fit to bowl - he wasn't for the final Test against the men from the Caribbean - that means there is likely to be places for just three of those quicks. Woakes, despite his record in England and his strong showing against West Indies, knows he could be left on the outer.

"I hope I've done enough to be in that starting XI," he said. "But competition is high at the minute, we've got still two of England's greats charging in and taking wickets every time they play and we've got exciting fast bowlers as well. It's not an easy team to be cemented in. My record in England is brilliant, I'm obviously pleased with that, I want to keep getting better, improving myself. And every time I get the opportunity to play for England, home or away, I give 110% and try to do my best for the team.

"I'm really pleased with how it went in the last series against West Indies, I was really pleased to get the nod in the last Test match, and thankfully was able to show what I can do and put in a strong performance. Hopefully it's enough to keep me in the team for this week, but selection is not an easy thing and I'm in a position where I've done really well, and if I'm selected then great, but if not I'll get myself ready for whenever the next game is."

Woakes is a multi-faceted bowler. In the second Test against West Indies, he opened the bowling with Broad while in the final game, he came on second and then first change. "I suppose it depends on the make-up of the team and the attack, really," Woakes said. "In the first Test match I played - the second Test against West Indies - I was picked to take the new ball along with Stuart. Therefore your role is a little bit different: you're a new ball bowler, you're there to attack with the new ball.

"If I'm playing with Jimmy and Broady, like I was last week, and Jofra, it probably changes a little bit. I'm probably going to be coming on first or second change, the ball is going to be a little bit older. That generally doesn't necessarily always bother me too much because generally the lacquer is off the ball and it might move a little bit more in the air. My role changes from game to game I suppose sometimes. But nothing really changes: you've still got to try and hit the top of off as much as possible, make the batsman play and hopefully you get your rewards that way.

"I think every bowler will say they prefer a newer ball to bowl with. That's generally when it will do as much and quicker off the pitch with a newer ball. I actually don't mind: I've spent my whole career playing for Warwickshire bowling with the new ball and most of my career with England with the slightly older one. I learned to bowl with both. Of course, I would prefer a newer ball, I think, but at the same time I'm just as effective now and as good with the slightly older one as well."

Woakes made his debut for England in 2013 but it was not until the 2016 series against Pakistan at home, which was drawn 2-2, that he started to really show his Test credentials. He took 26 wickets at 16.73 and averaged 35.40 with the bat. "I've got good memories of that summer. It was kind of a breakthrough for me in the Test team," Woakes said. "The winter prior to that in South Africa didn't go as well as I'd liked. I doubted whether I was going to get another opportunity.

"That was a real big turning point for me, 2016. I found a bit of rhythm, got the ball moving in the air and bowled at decent pace that summer. Hopefully I can draw on those memories for this series coming up. I feel like I've changed as a cricketer since then: with experience and time you develop new skills. But also I feel like I've become a lot more consistent, both as a cricketer and as a person as well. The older you get and you learn your game a little bit more. Hopefully I can bring some of that form to this series."

If he does, you can be sure of one thing: you won't find Woakes seeking out the limelight.