I only did what comes naturally, says Woakes
Warwickshire man's Twenty20 heroics at Adelaide suggest he has what it takes to join England's growing fast bowling battalion
If he never does anything remotely like it again – and he may do plenty – Chris Woakes will remember his first international forever. In on a hat-trick, England suddenly reeling, the packed crowd baying for Pommie blood and he proceeds to hook the quickest bowler on the planet for six, score three off the final two balls and ensure that England are home by a measly wicket and have set a new record for the most consecutive wins in Twenty20.
So how was that for the 21-year-old greenhorn from the Midlands? "The adrenalin was running and it was like any other cricket match," he said. "I know there was a bit more on it but I just tried to be in the same zone as if I was playing for Warwickshire."
It was not like any other cricket match at all, of course. It was England against Australia, the Twenty20 world champions against their oldest enemy seeking desperately to regain a scintilla of self-respect and sensing the opportunity to do so. But what Woakes did so wonderfully was treat it as though it was any other old game.
The sheer nervelessness, the calmness in the face of Australia's barrage, was extraordinary. "You can learn it, but it is a natural thing for me," he said. "It is the way I've been brought up by my family. They have been a big influence on me and that is the way they have brought me up which helps."
He did not put a foot wrong and when he stood tall and smashed Shaun Tait into the far distant stands it was an example of putting feet and his entire other bodily parts right. It was then that you sensed England, who had messed things up a bit in their pursuit of 158 to win their eighth consecutive T20 game, could prevail.
Tait, who was bowling in excess of 90mph for most of his four overs, was not amused. But Woakes merely retained his composure, showing neither excitement nor pleasure, similar to the manner in which he reflected on his memorable debut yesterday. He even managed to plan for the bouncer which he plundered so ferociously. "I had a feeling I might get one in that over, so I was preparing myself for it," he said. "When the ball is coming down that fast you just have to watch it and at the end of the day it's between bat and ball and I was just watching the ball out of the hand. He gave me a bit of gyp but you just have to expect that, it's Australia against England and you take it with a pinch of salt. I'm sure there will be more to come as well."
It is as a seam bowler, however, that Woakes will forge an international career, if he should forge one at all. He opened the bowling for England on Wednesday night, unexpectedly perhaps but it was a smart move for it helped to ensure he did not have time to become nervous by waiting and that Australia's opening pair had not built up a head of steam.
He responded as well as he did with his batting and if his second over betrayed apprehension he recovered well later in the innings and was rewarded with his first international wicket, that of Australia's new T20 captain, Cameron White. He bowled straight, he had control, he is another in England's currently well-stocked bowling resources. Woakes has been quietly impressive since making his debut for Warwickshire as an 18-year-old in 2007.
By the following summer he was a regular member of the side, marked out because of his accuracy and ability to learn quickly, and England have been clocking him since.
It is openly discussed in cricketing circles that for all his manifest virtues, Woakes may not be quite quick enough to trouble the best.
Warwickshire's bowling coach, Graeme Welch, knows this theory. Everybody does. "We could all do with another yard or two, couldn't we?" Welch said. "But he's put on a yard in the past year. He's got stronger. He now hits the deck hard and he swings it, he's got smarter, he's still maturing and he might get quicker. What impresses me is that he's in charge of his own game, thinking like a cricketer."
This testimony is not solitary. Ashley Giles, Warwickshire director of cricket and England selector, has said he would like to clone Woakes. Last summer was his most productive so far with 54 wickets at 21.57, which helped to keep Warwickshire in the First Division, and he also scored his second Championship century. For now, he is a bowling all-rounder rather than genuine all-round all-rounder, but Andy Flower, England's coach, saw enough of him in the Adelaide nets on Tuesday to put him at nine in England's order on debut, ahead of the more proven Graeme Swann.
Woakes might have been lost to cricket if he had not been offered a place at Warwickshire's academy at 14. Until then he was also on Walsall's books as a right-sided midfielder, but then decided to pursue cricket. "At the minute," he said, "it seems a like a decent choice."
Who is Chris Woakes?
Born 2 March 1989, Birmingham
Matches 46, Runs 1,226; Ave 27.24
100s: 2, 50s: 3; Top score 136*
Wickets 154; Ave 25.55
5 wkts 8; Best 6-43
Matches 34, Runs 133; Ave 26.60
100s: 0, 50s: 0; Top score 27*
Wickets 27; Ave 29.66
5 wkts 0; Best 4-21
Australia S R Watson, D A Warner, A J Finch, D J Hussey, C L White (capt), S P D Smith, T D Paine (wkt), S N J O'Keefe, M G Johnson, B Lee, S W Tait/J L Pattinson.
England S M Davies (wkt), I R Bell, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood (capt), E J G Morgan, L J Wright, M H Yardy, T T Bresnan, G P Swann, A Shahzad, C R Woakes.
Umpires B Oxenford, P Reiffel.
TV Sky Sports 1, 8am-12pm.
Weather Heavy rain. Max Temp: 24C.
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