How well will Chris Woakes have to play before he’s in England’s overseas first XI?

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Chris Woakes swings the ball less than Jimmy Anderson and seams it less than Stuart Broad. As an all-rounder, he isn’t as striking or dynamic as Ben Stokes. He’s still good though, isn’t he?

For several years, England figured that even if there wasn’t an exact Chris-Woakes-shaped hole in their side, he was worth picking anyway. In England, this generally worked. Outside England, it generally did not work.

The ball tends to swing and seam for longer in England, which means it often makes sense to pick another new ball bowler as your first change bowler. In most countries, that doesn’t work. The new ball window is smaller, so things can quickly end up looking a bit fast-medium.

In England, Chris Woakes averages 35.16 with the bat and 22.10 with the ball. If we impose a 30-wicket qualification criterion, a grand total of two cricketers have managed those sorts of figures across an entire Test career: Keith Miller (36.97 and 22.97) and Imran Khan (37.69 and 22.81). That is okay company to be keeping. (It would certainly make for some interesting chats.)

Outside England, Chris Woakes averages 19.00 with the bat and 51.68 with the ball. And that is shit.

There are two by-products of this bipolar output. The first is that English people who only pay attention to cricket in the summer think that Chris Woakes is the dog’s bollocks and cannot comprehend why everyone else doesn’t necessarily feel the same. The second is that England no longer pick Woakes away from home.

Because really, it’s been a while.

Woakes has played 14 of his 36 Tests overseas, which is not an insignificant number. However, this breaks down as follows.

  • 2015 – one Test
  • 2016 – six Tests
  • 2017 – four Tests
  • 2018 – one Test
  • 2019 – one Test
  • 2020 – one Test

It’s worth asking whether Woakes is the same bowler now as he was in 2016/17.

In many respects – no. He has learned a bit. We believe he’s got the ‘wobble seam’ delivery these days and he also has a beard.

In a broader sense – yes. He’s still an accurate fast-medium bowler who swings it a bit and seams it a bit. He’s still a new ball bowler, in other words.

So here’s another question. And also an immediate follow-up question. And then a second follow-up question off the back of that first follow-up question.

Is there anything more that Chris Woakes himself could do to earn selection in England’s overseas XI? Or is he basically at the mercy of circumstance, waiting for rest, rotation or retirement to create a new ball vacancy? And is he even the next in line to be picked as a new ball bowler should that vacancy actually arise?

We would go with: not really, yes and probably.


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8 comments

  1. Obviously it’s too hot to actually, you know, check, but I wonder if Woakes’ away figures might not have been affected by his getting the old ‘burra after Jim and Stu had knackered it? If I wasn’t melting I’d try to come up with something plausible about his batting.

  2. He could learn to bowl slow left arm. I bet he could do it, or certainly give it a try if asked.

  3. Oh, and there’s the bowling action. Woakes is flipping really good, and I reckon could bat at 3 for England.

    Incidentally, as a mini-review, I’ve just finished listening to Bob Willis: A Cricketer and a Gentleman in audiobook format from Audible. I liked Bob even before it became fashionable to do so, but the narration (by Bob’s brother) is quite nauseating. Best get it in hard copy if you fancy it.

  4. That’s a home beard, though isn’t it, Chris Woakes’s beard? No way is that an overseas beard.

    If he wants to get into the side away from home he needs more than a wobble seam. He needs an overseas beard.

    Look at James Lillywhite, for example, the first man to captain England in an away test match:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lillywhite

    Now THAT’S what I call an overseas beard.

    1. Chris Woakes’ beard was in fact launched (inaugurated?) overseas. But it is not a patch on that. (Or we suppose you could argue it is several patches on that, filling in the gaps.)

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