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Woakes could be sidelined for two South Africa Tests

Chris Woakes left the field after bowling two overs Getty Images

Chris Woakes could miss the first two Tests against South Africa due to the side strain which ruled him out of the Champions Trophy.

The recovery timeframe is four to six weeks, with Woakes admitting it is likely to be the longer end of that scale before he returns to the field. It means he is all but confirmed to miss the opening Test against South Africa, which begins at Lord's on July 6, and probably the second as well, which comes hot on the heels at Trent Bridge on July 13.

Even if Woakes was able to bowl by then, he would have had no competitive action in which to prove his fitness. Another issue could be that the NatWest Blast will dominate the domestic schedule at that time, so Woakes may be limited to four-overs spells ahead of a potential return in the third Test at Old Trafford on July 27.

"It's a left side strain and there is a tear in the muscle," Woakes said at a Chance to Shine event. "It's a grade-two injury, which is not terrible news, but it's not great news at the same time.

"They say it's roughly a four- to six-week injury, and it's more likely to be towards the six when I am back playing competitive cricket. I'm on day five of my recovery now, and the physios say for the first 10 to 14 days there's not a lot we can do other than rest it.

"You don't rule it out, but I'm probably up against it for the first Test. Sometimes these things heal quicker, sometimes they take longer, so we have to play it by ear.

"It's also one of those things you can't rush back - if you do, it can just ping again. You have to make sure you're right before you come back. The timing of it is frustrating, it's terrible, but it's one of those things."

Woakes took 34 wickets in six home Tests last year - 26 of them in the four-match series against Pakistan - although the five Tests he played on the tours of Bangladesh and India were tougher as he claimed just six wickets.

James Anderson is also under a fitness cloud after suffering a groin injury last month playing for Lancashire, although he has returned to gentle training.

Anderson, Woakes and Stuart Broad would have been England's likely front-line pace attack to start the South Africa series, supplemented by Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, but there could also be question-marks over the workload Stokes can sustain in Tests due to his troublesome knee. If reinforcements are needed, Mark Wood, Jake Ball, Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones would be in the mix.