Chris Woakes as important a cog in England's World Cup wheel as Jos Buttler

Ajit Vijaykumar 12:30 21/05/2019
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Chris Woakes.

England’s ODI batting line-up is without doubt the most intimidating in the world. The consistency and hitting range of England’s batsmen all the way down to number eight make them the deserved favourites for the 50-over crown at home.

The focus of the cricket world, understandably, is on the numbers England’s batsmen have stacked up. Pakistan became the first team in ODI history to score more than 340 in three consecutive innings during their recent clash against the Englishmen. Eoin Morgan’s men went and became the first team to do it in four matches in a row, sweeping the home series 4-0.

If we look at the last two years, the stats are incredible. The top two scores – 481-6 and 418-6 – are both by England and they have the most 340-plus scores – 10 – in that period.

The pitches in England have turned out to be especially flat and that has meant cruel days in the field for bowlers and fielders. England’s batsmen, however, have been better than everyone else in sustaining the tempo across 50 overs.

But as incredible as England’s batting has been, their bowling has been a cause of some concern with selectors realising that conceding 340 or more in every other game is not ideal.

While England have made 340 or more 10 times in the last two years, they have also conceded that many eight times. It’s therefore understandable why the England board expedited the eligibility of quick Jofra Archer to wear England colours.

Even so, some England bowlers have held their own amidst all the carnage.

Seamer Chris Woakes and leg-spinner Adil Rashid don’t get as much attention as the likes of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow do; it’s a batsman’s game after all. But their performances in ODIs in the last two years has been as commendable.

Rashid is the third-highest wicket taker in the last two years with 71 scalps from 45 matches at an economy of 5.59. All-rounder Woakes has 41 wickets from 27 matches at an economy of 5.72. And yes, both bowlers played in the unforgiving series in the West Indies and at home against Pakistan this year where scores of 350 or more stopped becoming news.

While Rashid’s success can be attributed, to an extent, to the general success enjoyed by wrist spinners – the top four wicket-takers in the last 24 months are ‘wristies’, the case of Woakes is noteworthy as he does not possess extreme pace nor is he the best swinger of the ball.

But even so, in the last two ODIs against Pakistan, the right-arm seamer finished with figures of 4-67 and 5-54 as Pakistan made 358 and 297 respectively. For a fast medium seamer to end up with those figures is as great an achievement as a 70-ball 100 on those ‘highway’ pitches.

Since the 2015 World Cup, as England’s batsmen piled on the runs, Woakes’ economy rate has came down each year – 5.35 in 2016, 5.15 in 2017 and 5.11 in 2018. His economy in eight ODIs this year is 6.9 for 13 wickets – figures spoiled by one game in the West Indies where he went for 91.

Despite battling long-standing knee problems, Woakes has put up numbers that are as noteworthy as those of England’s batsmen. And if England are to go deep in the World Cup, the bowling form and fitness of the Warwickshire seamer might just be the most important factor.

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