Chris Woakes declared his triumphant return to the Test arena “well worth the wait” after helping himself to four Indian wickets on day one of the fourth LV= Insurance Test.
For the first time since last August the Warwickshire all-rounder was part of the England XI and he was sure to mark the occasion in style as he picked up four for 55.
He dismissed Rohit Sharma with his sixth ball of the morning to get the hosts on the board, added the scalps of Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur and also saw captain Virat Kohli dropped off his bowling.
It was Woakes who led his side off as India were dismissed for 191, before the touring attack made handy inroads of their own to leave England 53 for three at stumps.
In the 372 days since he last celebrated a Test wicket, Woakes has been kept out of the team by a variety of circumstances ranging from Covid protocols, selection whims, a mandatory rest period after the IPL and, most recently, a freak heel injury coming down the stairs.
“I’ve loved it. It felt like it’s been quite a long time coming,” he said with a broad smile after play.
“I’ve been in in Test squads throughout the winter and didn’t get the nod; I’ve been caught up in a few isolation incidents to do with Covid and then obviously this summer I picked up a niggle.
“So it has been a bit up and down but it was it was well worth the wait and to get out there today and be back bowling for England…I really enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably going to be a bit sore in the morning but it’s good to have those those pains and those bowling aches back.”
Woakes had been observing an intriguing series from a distance until now, watching both sides trade compelling victories following a rain-affected draw at Trent Bridge. It has been compelling cricket from the off and the kind of contest that anyone would be eager to gatecrash.
“I’ve been absolutely desperate to play. I’ve been obviously watching from home and I always felt like I was gonna play a part at some point,” he said.
“I’ve been working with the medical team for the last couple of weeks to try and get me as close to match ready as possible and I declared myself fit. I was really excited to get in and be a part of the squad again so when I got the nod I was just excited to get going.”
India were set for an even slimmer total at 127 for seven, but found themselves bolstered by a rousing, record-breaking thrash from number eight Thakur.
He smashed seven fours and three sixes in an electric knock of 57, including the fastest ever half-century at an English ground. His 31-ball effort was one faster than Sir Ian Botham managed at the same ground in 1986.
“When Rishabh got out, it was important for me to play such an innings,” he said of his counter-attacking classic.
“There are two ways: you can either be patient and bank on all of the partners coming in, or if it’s in your slot you hit it. There is no right or wrong way – runs are runs – but today was a day where I was connecting properly, so I kept going for the shots.”