Chris Woakes did his best to nudge his way into contention for England‘s first Test against the West Indies but is braced for disappointment when the sides convene at the Kensington Oval.
Woakes claimed the pick of the figures on the final day of warm-up action against a CWI President’s XI, removing top-scorer Sunil Ambris lbw and twice rattling the stumps for figures of 3-31 in the hosts’ 202 all out.
The Warwickshire man made things happen from a testing fuller length but by close of play it was hard to see the 29-year-old’s route into the side next week.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad are expected to be reunited after being parted for three Tests in the spin-dominated series in Sri Lanka, while Sam Curran appears to have leapfrogged his fellow all-rounder.
Not only does the latter boast a point of difference as a left-arm option, he has also found more swing than anyone since England landed in Barbados.
Woakes is aware he may be about to embark on another series on the sidelines but was pleased to offer a firm reminder of his own qualities before the serious business gets under way.
“The competition for places is high, especially coming off a 3-0 win in Sri Lanka, so it’s hard to force your way in,” he admitted. “When you get an opportunity like this you want to put your hand up and do what you do and I feel like it went reasonably well. I don’t feel like I can do any more.
“With selection if it goes your way it’s happy days and if it doesn’t you just keep working hard. I’ll work hard and remind the captain and coach I’m still around. Bowling teams out more than once in a day is never easy on any surface against any team.
“They had some players with Test experience in their team. We’ve bowled well as a team. It was good to get used to conditions and get some time in the legs and I feel we performed well over four days.”
The final make-up of England’s side on Wednesday morning will come down to their assessment of the pitch. Should they feel there is enough encouragement in it for the seamers, Curran would surely get the nod, but if it looks like taking plenty of turn there could be hope for Jack Leach to join Moeen Ali as a second spinner.
Having relied heavily on the spin triumvirate of Moeen, Leach and Adil Rashid in Sri Lanka, reversion to one specialist would be a significant rebalancing job but captain Joe Root is on hand as an ever-willing part-time option.
By Press Association Sport
Joe Root commiserated with injured seamer Olly Stone after his tour of the West Indies ended on the same day his fellow bowlers filled their boots with wickets in Barbados.
Stone felt discomfort and stiffness in his lower left back after netting on Sunday and scans revealed what the England and Wales Cricket Board described as a “bone stress injury”.
While a fuller prognosis will not be forthcoming until further assessment back home it is a disappointing development for the 25-year-old, who has endured severe fitness setbacks in his career and had been eyeing a Test debut in the Caribbean after going unused in Sri Lanka.
His woes were in stark contrast to those who enjoyed a profitable ti me in the field on Wednesday, with a wayward CWI President’s XI offering up 19 dismissals for 203 runs in a heavily one-sided contest.
Stuart Broad was the main beneficiary, claiming four wickets in five balls either side of tea, including a hat-trick, while James Anderson instantly hit a groove with four for 12 in 11 overs.
Root declared himself happy with the cricket on offer, focusing more on the time spent in the middle and overs banked rather than the hefty volume of wickets, but felt bad for Stone.
“I’m gutted for him. He worked extremely hard to get into this squad,” said Root.
“He did some really good work in Sri Lanka, pushed his case really hard, and was doing the same here. It’s a massive blow for him personally and for us as
a team too but I’m sure we’ll see plenty more of him in the future.”
No replacement has been selected yet, with Jamie Overton, Jamie Porter and Mark Wood the likeliest candidates, though any new arrivals would probably be playing a supporting role in the coming weeks.
Broad, selected for only one of the last three Tests, is expected to hold his place alongside Anderson and Sam Curran at the Kensington Oval and did his cause no harm at all.
As the proud owner of two Test hat-tricks, against India in 2011 and Sri Lanka three years later, he was not getting carried away by the removing three tail-enders in a practice match.
Having remodelled his approach to the crease over the winter, it was a welcome haul all the same.
“Hat-tricks are quite fun,” he said.
“I would love three Test hat-tricks, so maybe this was just good practice. The important thing was the new run-up, slightly shorter strides and hitting the crease hard.
“Those five or six overs in the afternoon were as good as I have felt for a long time, I got the ball swinging away from the right-handers and hit good lengths. You’re not bothered if you miss out in warm-up matches but it’s nice for the confidence if you do.”
England go straight into another two-day match against the same opponents at the 3Ws Oval, with minor concerns over how an already wearing and unpredictable pitch may play.
The tourists will bat on Thursday before returning to the field on Friday for the final day of Test preparations.
Root, Anderson and Jack Leach will sit out, meaning Jos Buttler comes in as captain along with Adil Rashid and Joe Denly.
Jos Buttler accepts England‘s leading stars face a balancing act to keep themselves in peak condition throughout what could be a golden year for the sport.
England begin their Test tour of the Caribbean with a two-day warm-up against a Cricket West Indies President’s XI in Barbados on Tuesday, a low-key start to a potentially transformative 2019.
A home World Cup followed by an Ashes visit from Australia equal arguably the biggest summer for cricket in a generation but there is plenty more on the agenda for the likes of Buttler, whose broad range of skills leave him in near constant demand.
He has just finished another successful stint Down Under at the Big Bash, heads off to represent Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League at the end of March and could theoretically feature in three Tests, 11 ODIs and four Twenty20s for England before the main events of the domestic season even get under way.
His is an extreme case but workloads across the board are heavy, a point Buttler insists has not been lost on those in charge.
“It is a massive year and we have to be fresh and excited going into the big events,” he said.
“There is lots of cricket coming and one of the things both captains (Joe Root and Eoin Morgan) and management have done is look after the players which is really important.
“We’ve talked about about this year being massive for the game. We don’t want people to be too tired but there’s a fine balance between doing too much and too little.
“We only have a short career and you want to play as much as you can. There are amazing possibilities around the world but you have to balance your time well and it’s important for myself especially to have time away from the game.
“So it’s a discussion for everyone, being open and honest and trying to find the best solutions.”
England have agreed to play 12-a-side in their first practice match, which will take place at the 3Ws Oval against opponents coached by former West Indies captain Floyd Reifer.
The local team will contain Test capped bowlers Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cummins and if England’s exploratory sessions in the middle over the past 48 hours are anything to go by, the pitch could be both unpredictable and unwelcoming to batsmen.
As such, Buttler is sticking to the task at hand while despite the excitement ahead in the coming months.
“We’re all in a very fortunate position to potentially play a part in a huge period of time for England cricket. They’re all very romantic ideas but the end product comes from hard work in the years before that and from doing some good stuff now. I’m very aware of how quickly things can change in cricket and if you look too far ahead you can come unstuck.”
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