Chris Woakes is a very good and admirable cricketer. He didn’t have the best of time in the last Ashes but has since bounced back in the shorter formats. If he were to play a Test match, he would not doubt take a bunch of wickets. Nevertheless, England should pretty much always play Mark Wood instead, who may or may not perform as effectively, and quite often not.
Now the first thing to say is that we like Chris Woakes very much. We believe he will play plenty of Tests for England and it stands to reason that this also means that we believe he will take many Test wickets and consequently bring us a great deal of Test joy (which is a very real and important brand of joy).
He is also widely perceived to be a very nice man. If in thirty years time our daughter were to tell us that she was going to marry Chris Woakes, we’d say: “Chris Woakes is almost 60. This age gap is unseemly.”
However, if by the magic of time travel he was the exact same age as her, we’d say: “This is evidence of real actual time travel. This is incredible.” But once we’d dealt with the seismic technological development (and really, what else is there to say?) we’d say that on balance, given some of the other historical figures she could have ended up with, Chris Woakes is an adequate and acceptable choice.
Although actually, now that we think about it, isn’t Chris Woakes married? Maybe we’d be concerned about why he was running away from his own time period given that he had a wife and a burgeoning international cricket career back then. That would be a bit suspicious.
Anyway, the point is that Chris Woakes is an agreeable-to-likeable man. With hindsight the whole ‘would you be happy for him to marry your daughter’ thought experiment was a bit of a misstep on our part given their respective ages.
(Also, a quick note to say that we’d rank Mark Wood slightly above Chris Woakes on the likeability scale because he can be genuinely funny – and really, what other worthwhile quality would you ever look for in a person?)
(Another quick note. No matter what else he does, likeability will always be something of an uphill struggle for Craig Overton (remember him?) because he will always retain the air of someone who maybe once did a racism.)
(Yet another quick note. If he ever stops to think about it, Jamie Overton will probably resent the fact that he also faces an uphill struggle for likeability because of the tarring-by-association that comes with being a twin.)
(Final quick note. We’ve just thought how Jamie Overton can easily avoid this. He should cast Craig as “the bad twin” which would of course make him the good twin, ergo likeable.)
Here’s the thing about likeability: at no point did Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath slow their wicket-taking as a result of our feelings about them during their playing days. Likeability and Test performance are not really connected and when you’re picking a team, it’s 100 per cent about how effective you think the player is going to be. (We’re going to be honest here, we’re going to flatly contradict this point a little later in the article.)
So what does Chris Woakes actually do? Let’s take a look at England’s bowlers to see what each of them offers and let’s do it according to Steve Harmison’s Theory of Units because that is something we fundamentally agree with.
Swing bowling: Jimmy Anderson is pretty much the best swing bowler there’s ever been.
Tall bowling: Current form notwithstanding, Stuart Broad has been a very good tall bowler.
Reverse swing bowling: Wiser men than us might disagree, but from what we’ve seen we feel like Ben Stokes has a legitimate case to be considered England’s best reverse swing bowler. Certainly, most of the occasions when he ‘makes things happen‘ seem to be occasions when the ball is also reverse swinging for him.
Spin bowling: Moeen Ali is the man who makes the ball bounce a bit funny by spinning it with his fingers.
So what does Chris Woakes add to the palette of things? Does he do anything different to the people listed above? Does he do any of the things listed above better than the people listed above?
Not really. In contrast, we could also add…
Fast bowling: Mark Wood.
Now, we can’t help but concede that Mark Wood is not always a fast bowler. Sometimes – perhaps even a lot of the time – he is just as fast-medium as everyone else. In fact it is not all that uncommon for him to bowl less quickly than Chris Woakes, who we would generally categorise as ‘brisk’.
But Mark Wood can bowl quickly. This is a thing that he is capable of doing and on the occasions that he manages it, he adds an extra thing to the bowling attack, which improves as a consequence.
When Mark Wood bowls quickly, he is electrifying. Chris Woakes is not electrifying. This is not meant as criticism of Chris Woakes because the truth is that very few players are ever electrifying. Being electrifying is a rare and valuable thing and that is why whenever you have a choice between a player who is possibly electrifying and one who definitely is not electrifying, you should always pick the possibly electrifying player even if there’s a more than reasonable chance that he will actually not perform as well as the other guy.
Cricket is meant to be fun and those rare moments when you think to yourself ‘something is happening’ are the most fun of all. Andrew Flintoff’s career record is famously nondescript, but he will always retain a warm place in our heart for all those occasions when he made us feel like something was happening.
There is also the small matter of retaining Mark Wood as a Test cricketer. Not so long ago we wrote at length about how the two Tests against New Zealand in 2018 potentially represented the final chance for him to have a career in the longest and most memorable format of the game.
Chris Woakes has been in the England Test team enough that we’re pretty confident he will be picked again. Wood, on the other hand, seems to exist in a constant state of maybe having already played his last Test without anyone actually realising it.
Wood should be picked and then hopefully something magical will happen and we can all stop worrying about the game fracturing into pieces for a day or two.
We were quite keen to be first off the mark in using the word “choked” to mean “lost a cricket match” in reference to South Africa this summer.
Hopefully we have achieved our aim. When you see the term deployed by others in the weeks to come, be sure to let them know that we were there first.
England’s victory again hinged on their conviction that they should be trying to take wickets throughout the innings.
Chris Woakes was the most wicket-takery bowler on the day, as he quite often is these days. He deserves it for his bowling action alone.
A lot of people coo over the aesthetics of a perfectly executed cover drive. These people have clearly never seen Chris Woakes bowl. He’s like one of those finely calibrated production line robots, only made out of honey.
South Africa choked on honey. It can happen.
England have long been on the lookout for someone who might one day fill the gigantic, timeless boots of Ben Stokes. Ever since the combative all-rounder suffered a knee injury in May 2016, they have yearned for a frontline bowler who can also play memorable major innings.
In many ways, it is an impossible quest and player after player has buckled after being unfairly labelled ‘the next Ben Stokes’. Chris Woakes is the latest to attract that unwanted description, but in the first one-day international against Sri Lanka, he gave further evidence of the quality we saw in the preceding Tests.
He may never become the next Ben Stokes – not least because he’s older than him – but maybe the public can one day come to warm to him as the first Chris Woakes.
The match was tied. It was tied because Liam Plunkett mullered a six off the final ball. Liam Plunkett was able to tie the game because Chris Woakes had made a frantic three of the penultimate ball. Woakes set himself up for that vital three with another 92 runs before that.
It’s not often your number eight top scores with 95 not out. Good knock, Woakes-o.
A daddy hundred’s anything over 150, right? Sounds about right. Graham Gooch should get in touch to correct us if we’re wrong.
Sometimes it’s not entirely obvious how you feel about a player until you’ve seen what they’ve done without actually watching it happen. We were out all day and when we thought to check the Test score, Moeen Ali had made a hundred. We were somewhat unexpectedly delighted by this.
Checking the score gives you a purer experience. You don’t get chance to come to terms with what’s happened. The facts just hit you and you’re forced to react instantaneously. Turns out we really like Moeen Ali.
We sort of feel pleased for Chris Woakes in a ‘good on him’ kind of way as well. There’s a bit less clarity on that one, we’ll be honest.
Let’s write a pointless opening sentence so that the formatting doesn’t look quite so weird when we give the Warwickshire v Durham game its own subheading.
Warwickshire were very much on top after two days, but somehow, after making 313 and bowling Durham out for 190, they contrived to lose. How did this happen?
It’s tempting to say that Josh Poysden is some sort of Brummie Kryptonite. He joined the Bears team at that point and you could argue that he dragged them down.
Or maybe it was psychology. Having Chris Woakes, a good batsman, open in the second innings in the knowledge that he was about to be replaced by Poysden, a shit batsman, was taking the piss a bit. We wouldn’t be surprised if that added to Durham resolve. It can also be a challenge for the guilty side to play remorselessly when they’ve doubtless got a nagging sense that they’re in the wrong.
Rather more prosaically, the guy who took 9-36 in the first innings left the match midway through to go and meet up with the England squad. No matter how well they’d bowled ‘as a unit’ Warwickshire’s other bowlers had only actually managed one wicket between them in that first innings and weren’t much more toothy in the second.
For Durham, Keaton Jennings made another handy hundred. Perhaps we’d make him ‘one to watch’ if we did that kind of thing.
Warwickshire are third and Durham move to second. Both are behind Lancashire, who are making the most of the North’s dry season this year. Doubtless they’ll fall back come the August rains, but for now they’re ten points clear.
Their latest win was built around a sterling performance by The Great Neil Wagner, who took 3-52 and 2-17. He was ably supported by Kyle Jarvis who took 11 wickets in the match and Alviro Petersen who made a ton.
For their part, Surrey are quite bad at cricket.
Hampshire won despite none of their players doing anything particularly noteworthy. Tino Best got a four-for. That’s something – although Harry Gurney got nine in the match for the losing side.
Two of the first division’s unbeaten sides continued their proud tradition of failing to win or lose a match this season. Middlesex are getting close though. They’ve mostly been rained off during their tour of the South-East in recent weeks but this time, at Lord’s, they were merely struck down by bad light.
Sam Robson made 99. Nick Gubbins made 109. We’d include more details but the Cricinfo scorecard we were looking at has gone invisible and won’t rematerialise even with a refresh.
Hereby we declare this week’s County Championship Division One round-up over.
Chris Woakes played in England’s last Test. He dismissed Stephen Cook for 115. Now he’s out of the team and out of the squad.
England like the idea of Woakes, but they don’t like that idea enough to commit to giving him a long run in the side. It’s understandable. When he does play, he rarely seems to take any wickets.
Sometimes he bowls badly. More often he bowls well but still doesn’t take wickets. The first Test of that South Africa tour was a prime example. Like an angry bad driver gesticulating at another motorists, Woakes can often seem to be all threat, no follow-up.
Woakes’ first-class record is exceptional, but it’s not easy to see him making it back into England’s Test team as an opening bowler. They’ve flirted with him, but there’s now too much distrust for a proper relationship. Does that mean his England ambitions are over? There are other jobs in the team. A dull and dutiful line bowler who swings it a bit can be a handy thing to have, particularly if that player can also bat. Woakes can definitely bat.
Yesterday, against Nottinghamshire, he made 121, batting at seven and if he’s keen to play Test cricket for England, maybe he should ask to go in earlier. It’s important to know your niche. A fourth seamer who can bat should probably try and do as much batting as he can, while an irreverent cricket site with no real authority should probably steer clear of making suggestions about how marginal England players should go about their game.
It’s hard to argue that this wasn’t the perfect England one-day performance. One, England won, which satisfied most of their fans; and two, there was enough evidence to suggest that England will never win one-day games with Alastair Cook at the helm, which will have satisfied his detractors.
The ideal scenario is for England to win the World Cup with Cook really not having pulled his weight but somehow still in the team. Today, he made 20 off 30 balls. Neither quick- nor heavy-scoring, it was pretty much the perfect Cook one-day innings. He was even dismissed playing a defensive shot to howls of derision from some place and some other place.
James Taylor replaced him at the crease and played really rather well. This means it’s quite possible to use the argument that Cook is keeping ‘players like James Taylor’ out of the side, even if he isn’t currently keeping your actual real-life James Taylor out of the side.
Next Joe Root scored a hundred, which is neither here nor there in itself, but did at least distract attention from Chris Woakes’ 6-47. Woakes loves being overshadowed and will have been delighted to have taken six wickets in a one-day game which largely took place on an entirely different day.
These aren’t even Woakes’ best one-day figures. He once took 6-45 against Australia, in Australia. But no-one remembers. In fact, Woakes has two of England’s three best one-day bowling performances of all time (behind Paul Collingwood). This latest effort has been sufficient to see him talked about as being someone who might possibly challenge Steven Finn for a World Cup spot. Great praise indeed.
For if Finn no longer looks like a man who has forgotten how to bowl, he does still give off the air of not yet having fully remembered. At his best, Finn looks stern and driven, but at present we find ourself getting distracted by how much he looks like he’s made out of uncooked spaghetti. That may or may not be the effect he’s trying to produce, so it’s hard to judge his progress. Assuming it is, we’ll give him 10/10 and Woakes 3/10 because the latter didn’t really look at all brittle.
How much does the ability to handle debut nerves have an impact on whether or not a player might one day thrive in Test cricket? Answer that question and you go a long way towards deciding how much attention to pay to the performances of Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan.
We’d say that in general a debut shouldn’t be considered representative of a player’s ability. That said, it is something that needs to be overcome. Concede ten an over and you won’t be getting a second Test without first making a very compelling case in some other form of cricket.
Every player is different. Some arrive in Test cricket fully formed, secure in their abilities; others build confidence over time. The former are preferable in many respects, but frequently the latter surpass them once they’ve found their feet. You invest in players and with the potential for poor returns in the short-term, it’s important to be certain you’re investing correctly for the long-term.
One thing we’d say is that Shane Watson was struggling up until he came up against the debutants and afterwards, he wasn’t struggling any longer. That’s quite important when you look at what’s going on in this Test. Woakes and Kerrigan have a debt. Will they get a chance to work it off.
How long does it normally take James Anderson to make 28 runs? The answer is four years.
Don’t scrutinise that.
Today, Jimmy made 28 off 19 balls. If you didn’t see the match, that should tell you something. Run scoring was not difficult. We’d go so far as to say that New Zealand’s 359 was chaseable.
That target was bigger than it should have been because England’s fielding was mediocre and there were more than the permissible number of wide long hops, but it was a ridiculously quick outfield and inflation ensued.
We’re getting to that. Today, Chris Woakes bowled okay. Jade Dernbach was the most expensive bowler and considering he’s supposed to be the one with all the special skills for this kind of pitch, you do start to wonder why he’s there. But Woakes is also an issue. We’re not quite sure we see where he fits in.
Woakes is a good bowler and it’s worth pointing out that he has bowled well for England, taking 6-45 against Australia in his second match, but he doesn’t seem to be particularly dynamic. That six wicket haul mutters ‘statistical aberration’ in a soft but audible voice. He basically bowls solid medium-pace, which in international terms is neither here nor there.
Woakes can bat as well. He can bat very well. Having come to prominence as a bowler, it’s actually arguable whether that’s still his strongest suit. However, is he one of England’s best one-day batsmen?
No, he isn’t. He’s a nice, orthodox batsman, but that isn’t what you want when the fifth wicket falls in a one-day match. You want brutality and irregularity. If England really feel they want him as an all-rounder, it actually makes more sense to bat him up the order and then pick a specialist heave merchant lower down.
That isn’t going to happen, because he isn’t actually good enough to be one of the main batsmen. Nor does he appear to be good enough to be one of the main bowlers. He appears to make the side because he provides ‘balance’.
Simmer down. We’re about to weave these two strands into one not-entirely-satisfactory whole.
What does balance achieve? Does balance win one-day cricket matches? We put it to you that one of the main effects of balance is that some top order batsmen become a little too carefree, safe in the knowledge there is ‘plenty of batting to come’.
Today was a case in point. With an outfield as quick as this one, Ian Bell should have made an 80-ball hundred. There was no need to play big shots. If he played normally, his ones would have become threes and his twos would have become fours. Conditions were made for him. England would have progressed steadily and then Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler could have come in with a few overs to go and started ramping, scooping, glancing and walloping.
Instead, Bell danced down the pitch and skied one and then Joe Root did much the same. Doubtless neither of them were thinking that they could play irresponsibly because there were still loads more batsmen to come, but it may also be true that they would have played a little more conservatively if England had picked five number 11s.
Chris Woakes doesn’t offer penetrative bowling and he doesn’t offer good lower order batting. Also, his presence alongside other competent batsmen such as Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann might mean some top order batsmen don’t put as big a price on their wickets as they should.
Then again, in an ideal world experienced batsmen would be able to properly weigh up a situation themselves.