Nasser Hussain believes Chris Woakes is a suitable candidate to fill the void when the ageing James Anderson eventually retires, but says he needs to improve his batting as well as his record with the ball away from home.
Woakes was the hero of England’s fighting victory over Pakistan in the first Test, scoring 84* in the second innings of their three-wicket win. According to Hussain, the effort ensured that he cemented his place in a pace attack comprising much more accomplished names.
“If you were picking a side just to win every game in England then Woakes would be one of the first names on your team-sheet,” Hussain wrote in his column for Daily Mail. “Because his record in England is better than Broad’s and Anderson’s.
“And he’s a better batsman than the big two as well. Woakes’s problem is that, because his home and away form are so contrasting, you are almost talking about two different players. At home, he averages 22 with the ball and 35 with the bat. Away, it’s 19 with the bat and 50 with the ball.
“Chris acknowledges this. He’s a very open lad and will come on interviews and admit, ‘Yes, I’ve got to work to get my stats better away from home’. Perhaps that’s why Woakes is sometimes overlooked, because England should be looking to build a side who can win in all conditions home and away.
“One thing certain is that Woakes is an absolutely top guy. When there’s a rain delay and we need something to do, we will often come up with trying to pick various XIs and, whenever we select a Nice People XI, Woakes is everyone’s captain.”
Hussain said that Woakes doesn’t always make it to the playing XI because England tend to look for variety in their pace attack, but could eventually turn out to be an ideal replacement for Anderson.
However, Hussain did have a warning. “So in an era when we will eventually be looking for a replacement for Anderson, Woakes could fit the bill — but he still has work to do,” said Hussain.
“And that includes with the bat because Australia will definitely go after him with the short ball. I was surprised on Saturday that Pakistan didn’t do the same thing, because I thought at one stage Azhar was saving Naseem Shah for when Woakes came in, after he had hit him on the head in the first innings. But Pakistan didn’t go after him at all.
“The bottom line is that perhaps we have all taken Woakes a little for granted at times. This victory was a reminder that we should never do that.”