It's the first time in five years that Chris Woakes has had to wait until late in the season to play a Test match for England. Not picked for England's Test tours in the winter and away from cricket because of a heel injury he suffered in July, Woakes was playing his first Test since August 2020, when he took the field on Thursday for the fourth Test against India at the Oval.
He did well on his return, taking four wickets - Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, and Shardul Thakur - as England bowled India out for 191.
‘Up and down’
Woakes said it was a weird year for him and that it was well worth the wait. "It's probably a weird 18 months for everyone, I suppose, but I felt like it's been a bit up and down. I've been in Test squads throughout the winter. I didn't get the nod. Been caught up in a few isolation incidents due to COVID. Then this summer, I picked up a niggle, so, been a bit up and down since January, but it was well worth the wait to go out there and be back bowling for England. I really enjoyed it," Woakes said at a virtual press conference at the end of the first day's play.
He felt his nervousness dissipate after his first couple of overs.
"Coming back, and not having played a huge amount of red-ball cricket, I was quite focused on doing what I do well, which is to take the ball away from the right-hander. Trying to get some movement there. I also know that the lads have had some good success with the wobbled seam in this series so far. I was trying to add that to my game a little bit more than I usually would. And thankfully, the surface responds to that," explaining what he was looking to do with the ball.
"I also found the rhythm early and probably lost the nerves with the way I bowled in the first couple of overs. It was nice to start well, and it kind of settled me down," he said.
HIGHLIGHTS - ENG v IND, 4th TEST, DAY 1
Woakes said losing the wicket of Joe Root before stumps wasn't ideal for his side. "We wouldn't have liked to have lost three tonight, including Joe. It's always a big wicket when he's in. But I still think we can bat well tomorrow, hopefully, get past their score. Get a good lead, and then put the pressure back on them again," he said.
Commenting on England's position in the contest after Day One, he said, "We've got some good batting to do yet. Tomorrow's going to be a big day for us, so, I'd like to think we're on top but as always it's Test cricket, the morning session is always crucial."
Woakes felt he missed out on some cricket in this past year, after having had a productive 2020, when he played six Tests for England, including five during the home summer.
"There are people in the world that have had it a lot worse than I've had. In terms of me not capitalising on the year that I had last year, to not play as much cricket as I have, feels like I might have missed out a little bit. At the same time, I'm always grateful when I've managed to get back in the side, and hopefully, show what I can do. Showcase my skills."
Woakes said he aggravated his injury, which delayed his return to cricket because he started bowling too soon after his injury, which he suffered during the ODI series at home against Sri Lanka.
"It was when we just got the COVID issue at Bristol, during the Sri Lanka series. I was in isolation at home. And I actually just slipped down the stairs; slipped down a few steps, and whacked my heel. I didn't think much of it at the time, then when I came out of isolation, I started bowling again. And I just made it worse by trying to bowl and kind of not giving it the time that I should have done, and that made it worse, and therefore, it took a lot longer than it probably would have done had I not bowled immediately coming out of isolation," he explained.
Woakes was elated to be feeling the familiar "bowling aches" again.
"[The legs] will probably be a bit sore in the morning, but it's good to have those pains back and those bowling aches."
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