08 March 2023

Chris Woakes determined to put himself ‘in the mix’ for Ashes selection

08 March 2023

Chris Woakes hopes sacrificing an Indian Premier League payday in favour of a County Championship stint gives him the best chance of featuring in the Ashes.

An important player in England’s T20 World Cup triumph last November, Woakes would have been fancied to land an IPL deal, but he decided before December’s auction to prioritise turning out for Warwickshire when the domestic season starts next month.

Spending time with family after a winter full of England and franchise commitments is a factor, but the manifest goal is trying to force his way back into the Test set-up for another tilt at Australia.

He has not played any first-class cricket in a year due to injury and recognises attempting to break into a buccaneering side that have won 10 of their last 12 Tests since last summer will not be easy.

But, if fit, Woakes’ proficiency in home conditions, where he averages 35.25 with the bat and 22.63 with the ball, means he is sure to be among a battery of quicks sought by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum for five Tests in six-and-a-half weeks.

“Ben and Baz are doing fantastically well at the minute,” Woakes said. “It’s great to see the way they guys are playing. I would love to be a part of it and I still feel my record in England stands up against anyone’s.

“If I can get myself ‘red-ball’ fit and firing and bowling well, I’d like to think I’d be in the mix. I haven’t played Test cricket for a year, so I feel like I would need some overs under my belt to have the chance to knock on the door for selection.

“But it’s a tough side to get into and there are guys bowling extremely well. I recognise that and have an opportunity at the start of the season to put in some performances.”

If I can get myself 'red-ball' fit and firing and bowling well, I’d like to think I’d be in the mix

Another carrot for Woakes is the eagerly-anticipated series begins on June 16 on his home ground of Edgbaston.

“What a place to start an Ashes series,” Woakes added. “It’s a biased opinion. I’d love to be part of it, but I know how difficult it is.”

Woakes’ last red-ball outing was at the back end of a chastening tour of the West Indies in Grenada, where he admitted his troublesome left knee was starting to become a cause for concern.

He underwent an operation last summer and has been restricted to limited-overs matches since then, all while the Test side have been breaking records and attracting praise for their ultra-aggressive style.

“In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have played the final Test match when I was creaking and my body was sore, but you get the opportunity to play for England, more times than not you take it,” Woakes said.

“I don’t look back on it with any regrets for that and I don’t begrudge anyone for what’s going on in that Test team at the moment, it’s brilliant to see.

“Last summer was a big miss in terms of missing a lot of cricket, but I feel like my knee since the surgery is in as good a shape as it probably has been and the rest of my body feels pretty good.”

Woakes is currently part of the England side that claimed an impressive 2-1 ODI series win in Bangladesh, where they will contest three T20s, the first in Chattogram on Wednesday, in their final assignment of a long winter.

It marks England’s first T20 as world champions, but the defence of that crown is more than a year away, with much of the white-ball focus on the 50-over World Cup in India in October and November.

“It does feel a little bit strange, we’re obviously playing a format that isn’t overly necessary right now,” Woakes said ahead of the series opener, where Ben Duckett and Chris Jordan are poised to feature after jetting in especially for these three fixtures.

“Nonetheless, you’re playing for England and you want to win so we’re looking forward to the next three games.”

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