All-rounder Chris Woakes insists he has the firepower to fill the boots of the missing Ben Stokes after taking six wickets in England’s final Ashes tour match against a Cricket Australia XI in Townsville.
Woakes claimed four wickets for eight runs either side of lunch to help reduce the Cricket Australia XI to 118-5, before the hosts rallied to keep England in the field all day, closing on 249-9.
The 28-year-old returned figures of 6-54 and in the absence of Stokes, who is still waiting to see whether he will be charged following his arrest in September on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm, believes he is reaching top form.
“With Ben [Stokes] being away, it means all of us have got to step up,” said Woakes. “I hope I can do that – score runs and take wickets. That’s my plan and I feel like I’m building well into the Test series.
“All the numbers are saying that I’m getting close to being ‘cooked’. I’m pleased with where I’m at. A week away from the first Test, it’s always nice to hit a bit of form.
“As a bowling unit, we feel like we’ve gone really well. We want to continue to work on plans we might be taking into the Test series and hope to bring about some confidence.”
Concern briefly raged over wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who was forced to leave the field but was able to resume after suffering only bruising to the middle finger of his left hand.
There was a further boost for England as seam duo James Anderson, who was ill on Tuesday, and Jake Ball, following his sprained ankle last week, both returned to bowl in the nets.
England bowling consultant Shane Bond, meanwhile, has suggested that the uncapped Craig Overton, who took two wickets yesterday, is winning the race with Ball to start next week’s Ashes opener in Brisbane.
“Jake is a little bit behind and Craig has come out and performed well,” said Bond. “He bowled 18 strong overs, used the short ball and created chances. He’s building well and he’ll certainly be ready for the Test match.”