England paceman Chris Woakes is glad to be suffering the “normality” of familiar aches and pains following his first bowling net practice since the coronavirus lockdown.
Warwickshire’s Woakes was back at his Edgbaston home ground in Birmingham on Thursday for an hour-long stint after being chosen for an individual session.
Batsmen and wicketkeepers are due to return from June 1.
The players are seeking to build up their fitness ahead of a three-Test series at home against the West Indies, which looks set to be rescheduled for July behind closed doors.
“It’s what we know, it’s what we do,” Woakes told a conference call on Friday. “Obviously it’s the job, so it was nice to have some form of normality going back to some training.”
England has selected 18 bowlers to take part in individual training sessions across seven grounds, with just a physiotherapist in attendance.
Under strict health measures they are not allowed to use changing rooms and must work with a set of balls they alone can pick up.
“It looks a lot different to what we’re used to,” said the 31-year-old Woakes, an all-rounder and veteran of 33 Tests.
“But at the same time, with what’s everyone’s been through, it was quite nice to be out there and do a bit of training and get the ball back in hand,” the World Cup-winner added.
“Obviously not having bowled for two months, there’s a few things that are sore. The sides definitely woke up this morning knowing I’d had a bowl yesterday but it was nice to be back out there.”
Despite the pandemic, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB ) still plan to stage a full international home season that also includes three Tests against Pakistan as well as limited-overs internationals against Australia and Ireland.
Officials from touring teams have made optimistic remarks about wanting to come to England, subject to health advice, and Woakes said: “First and foremost we just hope there’s going to be some form of cricket.
“Obviously it’s going to look different, with it being behind closed doors.”
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has warned a cancelled season could cost his organisation 380 million pounds ($463 million).
“We’ve all seen the projections, that the ECB and the game in general could be in a bit of trouble if we weren’t to play any cricket this summer,” said Woakes.
“I think for everyone it’ll be a bit of a boost, and obviously it’ll be a boost for the game.”
- Hales deserves ‘second chance’, says Woakes -
Alex Hales deserves a “second chance” with England after being sent into international exile as a result of recreational drug use, according to Woakes.
Opening batsman Hales was dropped from the World Cup squad shortly before last year’s tournament after it emerged he had tested positive for drugs.
England went on to win the event on home soil in dramatic fashion without him and he has not played international cricket since.
Despite his months in the wilderness, there is speculation Hales could be in line for a white-ball recall.
England is set to announce separate Test and one-day squads as it bids to complete a full international home programme against the West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland despite the coronavirus pandemic.
And the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia is still scheduled to take place later this year.
Woakes added: “I don’t know 100 percent if it’s the right decision, it’s not my call. I’m a believer that people serve their time, so to speak. He’s gone through a tough time being left out of the World Cup and going on to see that team lift the trophy must have been difficult for him. I think if people have gone away for a time and worked on their weaknesses they should be allowed a second chance.”
Nottinghamshire’s Hales was the second-highest run-scorer in Australia’s most recent Big Bash and has three of the five highest scores in England’s T20 history, including the highest of 116 not out against Sri Lanka.
It was only earlier this month that England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan said Hales’ behaviour had been “extremely harmful“.
Nevertheless, Woakes said there was no questioning the 31-year-old’s talent, adding that Hales could be re-integrated into the England squad.
“Alex is a world-class player. I have played a lot of cricket with him from a young age actually. In a way I felt sorry for him but I understand the decision from the management, captain and rest of the team. I don’t 100 percent know what will happen but I’d be happy to see Alex back in England colours,” Woakes said.
“We have a culture and an environment in the England squad where we all try to pull in the right direction. If Alex is willing to do that, then I imagine everyone would be happy to see him back playing for England.”
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