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Warwickshire wizard Woakes takes centre stage at Edgbaston

Published Jul 01, 2019
Jul 01, 2019 IST
England's Chris Woakes claims a stunning catch against India

In the lead-up to the Cricket World Cup, the inescapable narrative surrounded the newest member of the England squad, Jofra Archer, whose electric performances in the T20 game had seen eligibility rules changed to allow him to be fast-tracked into the team.

Though the depth of England's team was the main reason many earmarked them as favourites for the tournament, it was Archer who was viewed as the final piece of the puzzle, and was therefore the subject of the most substantial hype.

Despite being an established one-day player and a key factor in England's rise to the top of the ICC ODI rankings, you would have struggled to find many fans abuzz about Chris Woakes' potential impact.

Yet, with England's backs firmly against the wall in a must-win match on the heels of a shock defeat to Sri Lanka and a crushing loss to Australia, it was Woakes who played a starring role for the attack as they restricted one of the world's best batting sides to 306 on a pitch set up perfectly for big scoring.

England's 31-run triumph was one for which the entire team deserves great credit. Jonny Bairstow (111), Jason Roy (66) and Ben Stokes (79), laid a superb platform as England put on 337, and the bowlers set the tone early and swiftly put India on the back foot, with the hosts fielding like a side who knew defeat was not an option.

However, after successive games where England magic has been in short supply, at Edgbaston it was Warwickshire's very own wizard who produced the majority of it to turn the tide firmly in their favour.

He removed KL Rahul caught and bowled for a duck in the third over, that dismissal the highlight as each of his first three overs ended in maidens.

That spell saw Woakes become the first England player to bowl three consectuive maidens in an ODI since 2003 and formed part of an opening powerplay in which they throttled India, who scored only 28 runs in those 10 overs.


Virat Kohli (66) and Rohit Sharma (102) predictably led a riposte and, much to the delight of the huge contingent of India fans that took over Edgbaston, looked increasingly assured as they did so.

Rather than being Archer who dislodged them it was first Liam Plunkett, who was slashed to James Vince by Kohli, and then Woakes who made sure the pair would not be at the crease to guide India home, celebrations of a brilliantly crafted Rohit century short-lived as he edged an off-cutter behind.

Shorn of each of their talismen, India needed their chase to find renewed purpose and it looked as though Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya might provide it, the latter smacking Woakes for three fours in the 39th over.

It would have been fair to expect an England side Eoin Morgan conceded may have had their confidence knocked by back-to-back defeats to crumble. Instead Woakes delivered what proved the knockout blow in spectacular fashion, diving to his left on the run at the square leg boundary to claim an incredible catch that made Pant Plunkett's second victim of three.

Even with living legend MS Dhoni at the crease, India faded thereafter in the face of a rapidly rising required run rate, leaving England to celebrate staying in the semi-final hunt and Morgan to laud the influence of his often unheralded all-rounder.

"I mention this all the time, when Woakes does well, he's a guy that goes unnoticed a lot of the time, but he's an extremely valuable player to us, great asset," Morgan said. 

"Particularly in the first 10 overs, I know the pitches haven't been that rewarding this time, but he's been extremely disciplined today and rewarded well."

Rewarded and maybe unnoticed no longer. Even prior to his heroics, Woakes' profile had received a boost, with a flag dedicated to him flying in front of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury on Sunday, and his fanbase is sure to grow after he kept England firmly in contention for a first 50-over world title.

Woakes may not be a headline act in the eyes of many but, as he proved in England's hour of need, he is more than capable of delivering a memorable main-stage performance.

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