New father Chris Woakes gave himself extra reason to celebrate with a brilliant maiden Test century on his Lord’s comeback.
Woakes’ unbeaten 120 was the lynchpin of England‘s recovery from 131-5, especially in a sixth-wicket stand of 189 with Jonny Bairstow who fell seven short of a century.
The hosts closed day three of the Test on 357-6 and with a huge lead of 250 over India.
All-rounder Woakes, recalled after injury to replace the absent Ben Stokes, admitted afterwards he was so caught up in the moment when he reached three figures that it never entered his head to conduct a ‘baby’ celebration – following the birth of his daughter Laila last month.
There was no rocking gesture, so beloved of modern-day footballers, from the understated Woakes – whose 159-ball innings followed two wickets the previous day as he proved he is right back to his best after two months out with injury.
It turned out to be an actual ‘daddy hundred’ – a term coined by former England batsman and coach Graham Gooch to describe important centuries.
He said: “The lads did ask me actually where was the baby celebration – but for some reason, that wasn’t really on my mind.
“I didn’t really have any ideas of how I was going to celebrate, and didn’t really know how to – but I’m obviously just delighted. It’s still a bit of a blur. It seems to go so fast – 30 seconds of raising your bat feels literally like a blink of the eye.
“But it’s an incredible feeling. That feeling of raising your bat to a standing ovation at Lord’s is a bit of a boyhood dream.”
He confirmed life has changed in the Woakes household since the new arrival six weeks ago.
“Yes, it has been a little bit different – a little bit of a shock to the system, but obviously fantastic as well,” he said.
“It certainly puts things in perspective, when you have a bad day at the cricket and go home.”
Back on Test duty, Woakes’ return could hardly have gone better – at a venue where he has always fared well, and has the distinction of a Test batting average above 50 and bowling average under 10.
“It’s a sweet day,” he added. “I was over the moon to get the call to be back in the squad. I could never really have dreamt of scoring a hundred in my comeback Test.
“With five or six weeks out injured, you’re watching the boys all summer – and you want to be out there.”
BIG SHOES TO FILL
He had to sit out his home Test at Edgbaston, and a thrilling England victory, last week – but was determined to be himself here rather than try to copy the man he was replacing.
“Coming in in place of Ben Stokes, it’s quite big shoes to fill,” Woakes said. “But you try not to think about that – I don’t try to play like him, I play like myself, try to do my job for the team, and thankfully I’ve done that so far.”
Woakes and Bairstow became ever more comfortable against a touring attack who found conditions significantly changed after their own batsmen had been hustled out for 107.
Jonny Bairstow was dismissed just seven runs short of his century as England scored at nearly four and a half runs an over on Saturday.
For India, fast bowler Mohammed Shami picked up 3-74 but the other bowlers didn’t provide enough support as England looked all set to take a 2-0 lead in the series, weather permitting, with Woakes batting on 120.
Here are the talking points from a brilliant day for England at Lord’s.
SEAMERS STRIKE FOR INDIA
The overnight rain meant that even though the sun was out in London at the start of play on Saturday, there was enough zip in the pitch to assist the quicker men. Both Shami and Ishant Sharma found late movement from round the wicket to trap Keaton Jennings lbw and fellow opener Alastair Cook caught behind, respectively.
The wicket started to misbehave with the ball staying low. Hardik Pandya had debutant Ollie Pope lbw with one that skidded on to the batsman before Shami got one to stay low and hit captain Joe Root on the pad right at the stroke of lunch. At 89-4, it was game on.
BAIRSTOW AND WOAKES’ COUNTER-ATTACK
After Jos Buttler was trapped lbw by Shami, England were in a spot of bother at 131-5. But instead of going into their shell, Bairstow and all-rounder Woakes remained positive as they worked the ball into the gaps while accumulating boundaries. The hosts maintained a run rate of more than four an over throughout the innings, even though they were lucky early on with Bairtsow and Woakes getting numerous inside edges.
But once Ishant and Shami were out of the attack, England knew the Indian bowling didn’t pose much of a threat. Pandya was honest at best while wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav (0-44 from nine overs) looked completely out of sorts at the ‘Home of Cricket’.
LEAD OF MORE THAN 200
As the pitch began to ease out, India ran out of ideas. Bairstow and Woakes matched each other shot for shot and scored almost a boundary an over as they raised their 100-run stand in the first over after tea.
The final session went from bad to worse for Virat Kohli. Woakes and Bairstow put the foot on the pedal as they took their partnership past 150 in the 68th over with Woakes steering Ravi Ashwin past long leg for a boundary.
The cloud cover had returned by that time but the Indian bowlers had no clue against the rampant duo. Both were into the 90s after 70 overs with England at a healthy 299-5 and it was Woakes who brought up his maiden Test ton with a swing over mid-on for three runs off the bowling of Pandya.
But right after the two had taken the lead past 200, Bairstow edged Pandya behind to miss out on a deserved ton by seven runs. The two added 189 runs.
Chris Woakes has a higher Test batting average than Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan, Tom Westley, Keaton Jennings, Ben Duckett, James Vince, Alex Hales, Adam Lyth, Sam Robson, Nick Compton, James Taylor....— Ben Jones (@benjonescricket) August 11, 2018
I could go on.#ENGvIND
While England’s seamers were all over India in the first innings, India couldn’t make a similar impact. Apart from Shami and Ishant, no Indian bowler looked like picking up wickets consistently. Even then, Ishant went for more than four an over for his 1-88 from 19 overs.
In fact, ace spinner Ravi Ashwin came into bowl only in the 39th over, raising some serious questions about the tactics of the Indian team.
First over of the Test and James Anderson was on the Indian batsmen like a hawk. Four balls pitched perfectly outside off, swinging away from opener Murali Vijay. Then the fifth ball was bowled at the stumps, hinting at straying down the leg side only to change its mind midway and hit the top of off stump. In all fairness, Vijay would take that dismissal as a badge of honour.
Whenever England ace Anderson has the red cherry in hand and there is even a little bit in it for the bowlers, there is simply no respite for batsmen. Ever. Even at the age of 36. Among all fast bowlers the game has seen, Anderson must be considered as the best ever technician.
There are a few aspects to this view. One is the sheer volume of his work. Respectable fast bowling in Test cricket requires a certain pace and effort throughout the course of five days (or four as is generally the case now). The greatest away swinger bowled at 75mph will be swatted away with ease. That Anderson has lasted 140 Tests is a testament to his fitness and, more importantly, the technical efficiency of his bowling action. The fast bowler with the next best Test tally is Courtney Walsh with 132 matches.
There are many bowlers who bowled a lot quicker than Anderson and got more bounce. But for comparison purposes, we will just look at seam bowlers who took more than 400 wickets in Tests. That includes Glenn McGrath (563 wickets from 124 Tests), Courtney Walsh (519 from 132), Kapil Dev (434 from 131), Richard Hadlee (431 from 86), Dale Steyn (421 from 88), Shaun Pollock (421 from 108), Stuart Broad (419 from 120), Wasim Akram (414 from 104) and Curtly Ambrose (405 from 98).
Among all these great names, McGrath and Walsh are the only ones who can match Anderson’s wickets and match tally. Steyn would have easily been in this group but his intense bowling action put such a strain on is body that it resulted in serious injuries that all but derailed his career, underlining the importance of an action which is repeatable and sustainable.
Aussie legend McGrath’s stats make for great reading. His record away from home (260 wickets at an average of 21.35) is slightly better than his home record (289 scalps at 22.43). Plus McGrath has won every major Test series.
Anderson and Walsh average around 35 in Australia and have won series Down Under. But Anderson has a Test series win in India under his belt – in 2012 – something which Walsh hasn’t. So it makes sense to compare Anderson and McGrath.
Both McGrath and Anderson have actions that are simple, repeatable and allow for maximum zip and movement off the pitch. Economy of action allows both to raise the tempo even in the third or fourth spells. Where Anderson nudges just ahead of McGrath is that the Englishman forces batsmen to play and if the batsmen miss, Jimmy either hits the wickets, pads or the edge. McGrath, on the other hand, was famously denied wickets during an entire Test series against New Zealand in 2001 when the batsmen decided not to play him as his natural length sailed over the stumps.
That strategy does not work against Anderson. His line ends up on the wickets or just outside to catch the edge. Plus he can swing the ball in a mile. To top it, the Lancastrian is pretty neat with the reverse swinging ball as well, as he showed in India when the then captain MS Dhoni called Anderson the deciding factor.
Pakistan great Akram is arguably the greatest ever swing bowler. Steyn probably the finest out-and-out fast bowler due to his strike rate and success on the flattest of wickets. But Anderson is the one who has mastered his action and technique the most to become the second-highest wicket taker among Test quicks. Remember, when he started his career, Anderson suffered a stress fracture in his back as he tried to be a 90mph bowler.
It takes something truly special to deliver more balls than any other fast bowler in the history of the game – more than 30,600. And the latest ones at Lord’s are as lethal as they were a few years ago.