Paul Collingwood, the England captain, had never seen Chris Woakes bat before his match-winning innings against Australia in the opening Twenty20 and went on the advice of coach Andy Flower as to which position the debutant should take. It proved another perfect decision from Flower as Woakes hit an unbeaten 19 from No. 9 to secure a one-wicket victory at Adelaide.
Woakes, 21, earned his chance in the Twenty20 and one-day squads after Stuart Broad's stomach injury picked up during the second Ashes Test ruled him out of action until at least the World Cup. It wasn't expected that Woakes would play a major role but he was given an outing against the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra then preferred to Chris Tremlett in the Twenty20 side. Now he could yet be making a late bid for World Cup selection.
His batting talent has been evident in county cricket where he averages 27.24 in first-class cricket with two hundreds and holds a Twenty20 strike-rate of 146.15. However, it was a supreme effort to pull his fourth ball in international cricket from Shaun Tait, the fastest bowler in the world, for six then hold his nerve in the final over. To make it even sweater for Woakes, the six had followed a few verbals from Tait who had tried to unsettle the new kid.
"It was incredible," Collingwood said. "Tait had given him some jip the ball before and he's just said he was expecting it to be a bit short and he got it out the middle. He thinks about the game as well and that's crucial.
"It was a fantastic performance by him. To be honest I hadn't seen much of his batting, Andy Flower said he was a serious batter. Graeme Swann was a bit disappointed he was ahead of him but as soon as he hit that six off Tait, Swanny just doffed his cap at Andy and understood why he was behind him. He looks a serious batter as well, you can say he's a true allrounder.
"To have a youngster come in a lead us home like that, I don't think we should be leaving it up to him. We never like to leave it up to the bowlers. It's great the bowlers can bat like that, but it's up to one of the batsmen to see the team home."
Cameron White, Australia's new Twenty20 captain, found a succinct way of describing Woakes's hit off Tait. "It was a hell of a shot," he said. "When England needed a big shot they found it."
Woakes is the latest example of a player slotting seamlessly into this confident England unit and it shows the benefits of having a cohesive unit. In the Test series Tremlett and Tim Bresnan were drafted in with immediate results, while over the last 12 months Steven Finn and Eoin Morgan have also made impressive Test debuts.
There was no hiding from the action in the field, either, with Woakes given the first over the match by his captain. He conceded just four but was taken for 14 off the next by Shane Watson and David Warner, yet returned to bowl the 13th and 15th overs for a total of 16 and take the key wicket of Cameron White.
"There was a lot of pressure. Even though you only have 24 balls to bowl you have the likes of Shane Watson trying to smack you out the park," Collingwood said. "I thought when he came back for those couple of overs he was superb at a critical moment. It looks as though he enjoys the pressure."
The victory gave England their eighth Twenty20 success in a row which set a new world record and one that Collingwood believes won't be touched in a long time. "It means a lot. We always say we want to create history, it's a new form of the game but, let me tell you, eight wins in this form of the game is something very special," he said. "It only takes one performance to take it away from you like Shane Watson nearly did tonight. I can't see many teams getting close to that in the future."