Nasser Hussain praised one of cricket’s ‘good guys’ in Chris Woakes after he hit a maiden Test century on day three of the second Test at Lord’s, with England stretching their first-innings advantage over India to 250…
They say good things happen to good people. That happened today. It was incredible knock from Chris Woakes, and an important one for the team.
England’s lead was only 24 when he came to the crease and sometimes people down the order, all-rounders, just tee off, but he played like a top-order batsman. Also, I know this shouldn’t matter, but he is a thoroughly nice guy.
I’m supposed to be impartial, but I was willing him on to get his century and you could see his England team-mates were too. Every member of the team wanted to be on the balcony for the moment and, when that ball went over mid-on, you could see how keenly celebrated it was by Joe Root in particular.
He is a very fine player, with several first-class hundreds behind him, but there are plenty of great players over the years who haven’t got on that Lord’s honours board; Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, people like that.
There aren’t many who get that opportunity; this may have been his one chance. But he stayed very calm, with just a couple of flashes outside off stump before he got his hundred.
Woakes’ record at Lord’s is incredible. He gets his wickets at 9.93, and averages 122 with the bat now. In England, he would be in my XI every single time, but it is a good problem to have, with competition for places.
Woakes has got to work on his game away from home, because his stats are completely the opposite – it’s like two different cricketers. He will be under threat, because there’s a new selection committee in place who are very ‘horses for courses’. But they mustn’t confuse matters like they did with the first Test of the summer here against Pakistan, where they left Woakes out for Mark Wood.
I would never leave Woakes out in home conditions – unless his is unfit, which he has been at times this summer – and I’m not just saying that because he has had a good game here. Wood is a very good cricketer but, in England, with the duke ball, Woakes is a better one.
It was a terrific partnership between him and Jonny Bairstow, England’s most consistent performer with the bat over the past year.
Baristow looked a bit scratchy for his first 30 runs or so. But, for me, that shows a lot of resilience. I like seeing people who have had to work hard for their runs, stick in there. Eventually it gets easier, and when Woakes joined him, it did.
Ollie Pope also impressed me on debut, scoring 28. He looked a little bit legside dominant, which I don’t have a problem with, but Virat Kohli obviously thought that too, set a legside field and got his bowlers to bowl very straight to him, eventually getting him out lbw.
But, the most important thing was Pope looked very comfortable, not overawed in the slightest. He came in at a difficult time, on a pitch that was doing a bit, with England 32-2 and in a tricky situation after two wickets in five balls. He got his head down and got some runs.
I watched him bat in the nets the other day and I think he has a bit of Joe Root about him, that fluency of his movement. Michael Atherton has said similar, with a touch of Ian Bell too. That’s a good combination to have.
I also go back to Michael Vaughan all those years ago on Test debut at Johannesburg. I’m not saying he’s Vaughan, but look at the similar situation – he came in with wickets tumbling, only made 33 but it was noticeable how calm he was at the crease.
Watch day four of the second Test between England and India from 10am, Sunday on Sky Sports Cricket.
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