The Chris Woakes quandary

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Woakes has adapted Spider-man's web shooters so that they fire cricket balls

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.

Why is Chris Woakes in the title?

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.

The all-rounder

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’.

What was with the first few sentences of this article?

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.

Can you summarise this?

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.


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  1. Bell’s shot was rubbish. Again. Too many times he gets out dancing down the track and hitting one up in the air.

    Dernbach shouldn’t be anywhere near the England side. Not should Woakes, really. And why have they called up Rankin? Is Giles on a mission to deprive Warwickshire of all their decent players?

    At least we’ll always have Rikki Clarke.

  2. I would suggest that if Chris Woakes did have web shooters that NZ wouldn’t have ended up scoring anywhere near 359.
    You can talk about team balance, or putting value on your wicket but the fact is catches win matches. Well actually taking the opportunities that present themselves wins matches, it just doesn’t sound as snappy.

  3. I know it is Sunday, but does that mean that everyone around here (apart from me) had to eat waffles for brunch and alphabetti spaghetti for dinner?

  4. You know something’s seriously wrong when Trott scores a run-a-ball hundred.

    Today’s match also proved that if you are incapable of dancing, moving, or doing anything remotely human whilst occupying the pitch, you can hit hundreds.

    1. It’s still Trott’s fault that we lost. And it will be his fault if we lose any match in the future. It was ever thus.

  5. I assume that Chris Woakes is playing ODIs because he’s ploughing the old furrow of getting international experience in those games prior to going into the test side. Everything I have read suggests he’s better suited to the proper form of the game – his figures definitely say so, anyway.

    Dernbach should follow Old Yeller to the farm.

    Ah, who cares anyway? When is the first Ashes test? Why do we have to waste time in the summer with this worthless Champions League thingy?

    1. Looking at his profile, you would have thought Woakes was a good pick for any format except ODIs, but yet that is the format he is getting games. If only we could understand the inner thought of a selector.

  6. Ged – tempting, but Napier is the kind of cricketer who has a crazy magic moment every once in a while. He doesn’t fit with this England management team’s ethos. Unfortunately they may be getting into the bad habit of picking fashionable cricketers who look good but don’t produce.

    1. I blame Ashley Giles, especially his Warwickshire-centric view…

      …and of course Jonathan Trott.

      In any case, England should only really need one from Broad and Finn fit for the start of the Champions Trophy, as we surely should play a second spinner at those spin-receptive venues.

      Which surely means giving Tredwell a twirl on Wednesday at Trent Bridge.

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  8. England have played that badly that I’m actually thinking they should pick Bopara to bat at 7. That really is terrible

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