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T20 World Cup 2021

How Chris Woakes came from nowhere to become central to England’s T20 World Cup hopes

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

It was only this June that Chris Woakes ended a long exile from T20Is,but it seemed as if he had never been away.

His appearance against Sri Lanka at Sophia Gardens in June was his first for England in the format since November 2015, before the last World T20, when he hit a quickfire 37 and took 1-26 in a super-over win over Pakistan. In that Sri Lanka game, Woakes claimed 0-14 in three overs as England cruised to an eight-wicket win.

Despite being an integral part of England’s 50-over plans during that gap – only five men have taken more ODI wickets for the country – Woakes had remained on the outer in the shortest form. Furthermore, he wasn’t playing a great deal of 20-over cricket domestically either; when he turned out for Delhi Capitals in the IPL this April, it was his first T20 match since playing for Warwickshire in August 2018.

Yet Jofra Archer’s elbow troubles meant England needed new-ball reinforcements during the English summer, and Woakes has returned to the T20I set-up to plug the gap in excellent fashion so far.

Across his four T20Is so far this year – two against Sri Lanka at home and T20 World Cup fixtures against West Indies and Bangladesh – Woakes has bowled 13 overs and taken three wickets at 15.66. However, what’s more impressive is his economy rate: those overs have seen Woakes produce an economy rate of 3.61, which wouldn’t look out of place in the Test arena.

In terms of his role within the T20I side, there have been few surprises. In all four matches, he’s been entrusted with bowling at least two overs in the Powerplay, and against Bangladesh Eoin Morgan granted Woakes an extra over in the first six; the 32-year-old rewarded his skipper with figures of 1-9 from his opening three overs. Just three runs followed from Woakes’ final over of the innings as he failed to concede a single boundary across his set of four.

Woakes’ two World Cup displays stand in stark contrast to his displays in England’s two warm-up matches: he returned combined figures of 1-71 off 7.2 overs against New Zealand and India. Nonetheless, the 2019 World Cup winner has bounced back in two thumping wins for England to get their campaign off to a stellar start.

Next up for England is a crunch match on Saturday against Australia, who have also begun with two wins out of two. The hope for the 2016 runners-up will be that Woakes is able to repeat the performance he put up the last time England took on Australia at a global tournament: figures of 3-20 at Edgbaston two years ago saw Woakes named Player of the Match in a World Cup semi-final. After six years in exile, Woakes is now a central pillar in England’s ambitions to achieve T20 World Cup glory.

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