Woakes sets himself three-line whip
Chris Woakes is hoping his relevant experience pays off as he targets a place in all three formats for England in New Zealand.
Tim Bresnan’s elbow injury has created a possible vacancy for a back-up seam bowler who can also bat, and Woakes appears to fit that bill perfectly.
The 23-year-old’s first opportunity may come in the shortest format, two Twenty20 warm-up fixtures in Whangerei to be followed by three internationals with New Zealand.
Woakes has not figured for England in T20Is since winning his third cap versus Sri Lanka in June 2011. But since then, his batting in particular has flourished at Warwickshire.
He also took the sensible step in November, while England were making history with a Test series win in India, of signing for Wellington and going on to play two first-class and three Twenty20 games with them.
He fared well too, with an unbeaten half-century and figures of 3-27 the highlights in two T20 matches against Central Districts.
“I came out here trying to get used to conditions before Christmas and get some cricket under my belt,” he said. “I hope that’ll stand me in good stead.
“The pitches here are quite bouncy and generally quite true, not so English-like in terms of seam movement.”
After he and his fellow bowlers were restricted to only fielding drills and then batting throw-downs by a succession of showers on a cloudy morning at the Cobham Oval, Woakes was unable to test the knowledge he has so far accrued for his frontline skills in New Zealand conditions.
But he has every right to hope there will be plenty more opportunities, after being selected in the squads for all three formats over the next two months.
“I probably wasn’t expecting to be in all three squads at the start of the winter. But that’s the way it is, and I’m obviously delighted,” he added. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ashley Giles’ recent elevation from selector to England ODI and T20 head coach can do Woakes’ prospects no harm, since Warwickshire’s former Ashes-winning spinner has seen many of the emerging all-rounder’s best moments so far.
Woakes has six first-class hundreds on his CV, no mean feat for a frontline bowler regularly batting down at number eight.
England have taken due notice and his readiness to undertake that reconnaissance trip to New Zealand is another box ticked.
“It’s nice to have Gilo here,” he said. “I spent five years with him at Warwickshire.
“From a confidence point of view, it’s great to be in all three squads. I think every cricketer in that dressing-room would like to be in all three.
“I’ve just got to try to put some performances on the board and work hard in training and get myself in the final XI.”
Woakes ought to have an initial chance to impress in at least one of the two T20 warm-ups versus a New Zealand XI on Monday and Wednesday.
Unsurprisingly, though, he has designs on much more than that - and knows a Test debut could conceivably be within his grasp this winter.
“Test cricket is the pinnacle in my eyes, and every county cricketer wants to be there at some stage,” he said.
“For me to get a chance in that Test squad for the first time is fantastic. I’ve got an opportunity now to take that chance.
“I feel like my first-class cricket has been really good over the last few years, and I hope I can take this opportunity with both hands.
“This squad is very strong, and the (Test) team has been very similar for the last few years. Getting to number one was a fantastic achievement, but I’ve got to force my way in.”
Woakes has had to be patient already, having stayed on the fringes of limited-overs selection for much of the past two years after his T20 and ODI debuts in Australia.
But the improvement in his batting, in particular, gives him good reason to think he can start to make things happen.
“I hope if I get an opportunity in the warm-up game I can put some runs and wickets on the board,” he added.
“Obviously my bowling is probably my primary skill. But I feel my batting has improved over the last 12 months and is going really well.
“Fingers crossed, if that keeps happening, I’ll be a genuine all-rounder and equally strong in both suits.”
T20 squad member Luke Wright injured his right hand in fielding drills at England practice today, but was not sent for a scan after suffering an apparently minor strain when he scuffed his fingers on the grass.