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News

Chris Woakes keen for another crack but England without Ollie Robinson for first Test

Craig Overton likely to share new ball with Woakes after Robinson left out of 12-man squad

Cameron Ponsonby
06-Mar-2022
Chris Woakes is set to be England's attack leader in the Caribbean  •  Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Chris Woakes is set to be England's attack leader in the Caribbean  •  Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Chris Woakes has spoken of his excitement about being given another chance in an England shirt after fearing he may have been dropped in the wake of their disastrous Ashes series.
Woakes is set to share the new ball in the first Test in Antigua, starting on Tuesday, with Somerset's Craig Overton after Ollie Robinson, who suffered a back spasm in the warm-up match last week and did not train on Sunday, was left out of the 12-man squad.
"[Robinson has] had a great start to his Test career so naturally he'll be a big miss," Woakes said. "At the same time, it gives people opportunities. This tour is not just solely about opportunities, we're trying to win games of cricket, but at the same time it does give that chance to someone to potentially make their Test debut or who's been waiting in the wings for quite a while, and show that they can do it at this level."
Speaking after training at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, where England are due to commence their three-Test series against the West Indies, Woakes insisted that he expected a tough start to Operation Red-Ball Reset as the tourists look to embrace a new mentality.
"By no means is this going to be an easy Test series for us," he said. "We haven't won a lot of Test matches here in the last 50 or 60 years from what I've heard so it's not by any means going to be a walkover.
"I think it's more of a mindset, really. In Australia, we maybe got into a place where people were thinking more internally, thinking on personal levels rather than thinking fully about the bigger picture and about how to win games of cricket as a team.
"We're trying to focus on that in particular, the last week or so we've tried to focus on how we can get better at doing things as a unit rather than individually. Naturally it's a game that produces individual performances but we still need to be better as a collective, we can't just rely on certain individuals to always step up and put their hand up. We need to do it as a group and that's something we've tried to focus on in the 10 days we've been here."
Woakes was one of many to endure a poor Ashes series, taking just six wickets in three matches at an average of 55.33. His performance furthered concerns about his contrasting home and away records, which has seen him average 22.63 from 25 matches with the ball in England, but 52.38 from 17 matches away. With a mass overhaul planned, Woakes worried that his time may have been up.
"Yeah, definitely. Pretty much everyone would have been bar maybe a few. It would have been silly not to. [I'm] delighted to be here, to be backed and have another opportunity to have a crack at it. I'd have liked Australia to go better but obviously it didn't.
"It's clear my away record isn't as good as my home record, but I don't prepare in any different way. I look at conditions and try to figure out how best to perform on any given surface. I've never played a Test in the Caribbean so I'm excited about the challenge of that. It is a Dukes ball here so I'm hoping it might suit me a little better."
Far from being dropped, Woakes has instead been a main beneficiary of interim managing director Andrew Strauss's comments ahead of the series that these matches represent a chance for, "some of the bowlers that have been playing in the team to play either a slightly different role or more of a senior leadership role".
For Woakes, his role is both slightly different and more senior. In the absence of James Anderson and Broad, Woakes will take the new ball - something he has only done for England in 13 of his 42 Test matches. He will also be the de facto attack leader, with Overton expected to play his seventh Test in Robinson's absence and England banking on Mark Wood's availability after illness for extra pace; the uncapped Saqib Mahmood is the other seam-bowling option in the 12.
"It's something that I'm excited about," Woakes said, "it's not like I'm putting any more pressure on myself, I think we've spoken a lot over the last ten or so days and something I took away from Australia is making sure you don't take playing for England for granted.
"We worked so incredibly hard to get to this point, to become an England player and to get to this environment. You know it's easily taken away from you. It's making sure that every game is really important to you, you're wearing the Three Lions and you give the best of yourself every time you step out there."

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby