England opening bowler Chris Woakes confounded his critics by picking up three wickets in 14 balls on day two of the deciding Test against West Indies in Grenada on Friday.
Woakes came into the match surely knowing his place in the team was on the line after taking only two wickets for a total of 272 runs in the first two Tests, and he hardly helped his cause with a poor opening spell on Friday morning.
Initially bowling too wide of off stump, he did not make West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite play at a ball in the first over.
Woakes and fellow opening bowler Craig Overton did not last long in their opening spells before England captain Joe Root had seen enough and pulled both from the attack.
But Woakes’ critics who might have thought they had seen the last of him were mistaken because he was a new man in his second spell after lunch, bowling with much greater accuracy that asked more of the batters.
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A short ball was gloved by Nkrumah Bonner to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, and then Jason Holder holed out with a woefully mistimed hook in the same over.
His tail up, Woakes snared Jermaine Blackwood lbw and he ended the day as England’s leading wicket-taker with 3-48 as West Indies advanced to 232 for eight at stumps in their first innings, a lead of 28.
Woakes acknowledged that he bowled wastefully in his first spell. Asked what in retrospect he and Overton would have done differently, he replied: “We would have bowled a little fuller and risked a few more boundaries for a few more chances.”
But he defended himself against the prosecution by stating that the pitch become livelier after the first hour.
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“The wicket played quite nicely this morning,” he said.
“The roller (before play) clearly made a difference. After that drinks break, when the roller seemed to have worn off a bit, the ball started to do a little more and we found a better length and naturally picked up wickets doing that.”
Woakes has a decidedly better career bowling average at home than away, and one good session does not necessarily assure his future spot in the England team
But it will at least go some way to keeping him in the mix.
“With the bowling effort today we’re pretty pleased,” he said, mindful that the job is far from done.
“Any lead in a lower scoring game is quite crucial. We have to get those wickets early in the morning to make sure that lead is not much more than it already is.”