Cricket: Woakes stakes claim for World Cup opener

CHRIS Woakes hopes he has done enough to retain the new-ball duties when England open the World Cup against Australia at the MCG on Saturday.
Chris Woakes took five for 19 against West Indies in Englands warmup match. Picture: Shaun Botterill/GettyChris Woakes took five for 19 against West Indies in Englands warmup match. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty
Chris Woakes took five for 19 against West Indies in Englands warmup match. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty

The 25-year-old did his claims no harm in England’s nine-wicket warm-up win in Sydney, snaring five for 19 as West Indies were skittled for 122.

Woakes set the tone for a convincing success from the first over, when he narrowly missed out on a hat-trick, en-route to a reassuring performance after he endured a day to forget last time out in the tri-series final.

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Woakes took the new ball in all of England’s Tri-Series games but was pummelled for 89, without taking a wicket, in the Perth decider to raise some doubt over whether he would keep the role in front of a MCG sell-out against Australia on Saturday.

“I’d like to think hopefully it is me [who takes the new ball in Melbourne],” said Woakes.

“I’ve done it for roughly ten games or so now. It would be nice to think that I will get the new ball.

“Every time you put on the shirt, whether it is a warm-up game or in the Tri-Series you’re trying to do your best for England but your cause as well.

“Fingers crossed I get the new ball. I’m not aware of any changes at the minute.”

With James Anderson and Stuart Broad rested at the SCG, Woakes took the opportunity – on a helpful wicket – to remind of his quality as he found noticeable carry and movement.

He took just three balls to strike when Chris Gayle gloved a rising ball down the leg-side for a first-ball duck. Darren Bravo lasted no longer when he nicked a vicious off-cutter and Woakes almost had a hat-trick when Marlon Samuels fended inside the next ball.

The Warwickshire right-armer wrapped up his five-wicket haul, and the West Indies innings in 29.3 overs, when Andre Russell obligingly swiped him to Chris Jordan in the deep.

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“It didn’t go to plan in Perth in the final. It would have been nice to put in a better performance there, not just myself but as a team as well,” Woakes added.

“I felt like I’ve been bowling pretty well for the last year or so now – in the last six months in particular. (My confidence) didn’t take too much of a hit.

“You always want to get back out there and put in a performance to get back confidence, but I wouldn’t say it was too much of a dent.

“Today has obviously helped that by taking five wickets.”

England then needed only their top three to complete a routine chase inside 23 overs with Moeen Ali the only batsman to fall, for 46 from 43 balls, before Ian Bell (35) and James Taylor (25) saw England home with a half-century stand.

That ensured the day-night match was done and dusted before the sun had even set over the SCG and perhaps the only sour note for England was they were not more thoroughly tested so close to that MCG blockbuster.

“We’ve won the game pretty convincingly so it is a good run out in that respect, but I suppose it would have been nice for a few more batters to get a bit of time in the middle,” Woakes said.

“From a bowling point of view we put the ball in the right areas and got out of it what we needed.

“We didn’t bowl anything at the death, but there is another game on Wednesday so I’m sure that will throw up some different challenges.”

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England’s next test is a warm-up game against Pakistan at the SCG on Wednesday before they head south for their St Valentine’s Day date with Australia.

Already the Australians have shown a hostile reception awaits, with a series of posters in Melbourne poking fun of the England team which reads: “Missing: Pair of Balls. If found please return to the English cricket team”.

Woakes is confident his team will not be intimidated by any Australian barbs, adding: “We knew this game has been coming for a long time now. It’s going to be a huge game for us and the Australians.

“I’m sure they will be feeling as much pressure as we are. The opening game of a World Cup is a great opportunity for us to turn the Aussies over.

“We know they are a great team, they’ve had the wood over us in the Tri-Series so we have a point to prove and hopefully we can turn them over on Saturday.”