He claimed six wickets in the final tour match against a Cricket Australia XI in Townsville and I believe Chris Woakes is England’s most important bowler with the potential to be their standout seamer during the Ashes.
The 28-year-old showed his quality last summer when he really announced his Test cricket arrival, bowling better and taking more wickets against Sri Lanka and Pakistan than either James Anderson or Stuart Broad.
Woakes snared 34 wickets during that summer and in total he has 50 from his 18 Tests, having made his debut against Australia at The Oval during England’s victorious Ashes series on home soil in 2013.
A side strain during the Champions Trophy in June scuppered his 2017 Test chances and it takes time to recover from an injury like that, build the muscle up again and restore confidence in your action.
But, while the opposition in England’s tour matches is questionable, he does look as though he has found his form again. When his pace is up at around 86 or 87 mph then he’s at a different level and is a different proposition to when he’s bowling at a lesser speed.
You need that extra yard of pace on Australian pitches and when’s bowling at his best he’ll be the quickest seamer in that England side and will bring that little bit of X-factor to the table. Experienced pair Anderson and Broad will do what they do but the Australians won’t be as fearful of them as they would be in English conditions when they have the Dukes ball in hand.
Neither are as quick as they used to be and the ball isn’t going to be moving about as much as it does in this country so that extra pace becomes a vitally important ingredient.
Australia are going to be more concerned about someone who has a quicker speed of delivery and Woakes falls into that category. He is a genuine bowling all-rounder, too, given his ability with the bat – he averages more than 36 in first-class cricket.
There is no getting away from the fact that Ben Stokes’s continued absence – as he waits to see whether he will be charged following his arrest in September on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm – is a massive setback.
Stokes brings such balance to the team, but a fully firing Woakes would help negate that loss. He will probably bat at No8 although I reckon if circumstances dictate then he is good enough to bat higher and at No7.
The batting line-up would be bolstered even further if Stokes was there and Woakes, who has three Test half-centuries to his name, could drop a place to No9, but that isn’t the case and England have just got to get on with it.
If I was to compare Woakes to somebody it would probably be former Australia seamer Andy Bichel. They have different bowling actions but, like Bichel, Woakes is underrated, quicker than people think and comfortable with the bat. He has a massive role to play in the Ashes but one I believe he is up to.