Chris Woakes, the all-rounder who was the chief contributor to England’s victory in the second Test at Lord’s, sparkled again in the third Test against India, tearing through the top order and reducing India for 82/3.
But India fought their way back into the match through a brilliant 159-run stand between Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane for the fourth wicket, their efforts helping India to 307/6 at stumps. Woakes felt England would have liked to do better with the ball, especially after winning the toss, but felt that the match was evenly poised.
“It was an even day overall, I think. When you do win the toss, and go out there and have a bowl, there’s always that added pressure to skittle them early. But credit to India, I thought they played pretty well,” he said.
“There was probably a period through the middle of the day when the sun was out when the ball didn’t do quite as much and they capitalised on that. Sometimes you have to sit in and be patient.”
Even after Rahane’s dismissal for 81, it looked like Kohli – the India captain – would cruise past three figures and go on for a lot more. But he endured the tamest of dismissals on 97, nicking a full-blooded drive off Adil Rashid to Ben Stokes at first slip.
“If he (Rashid) could do that when he’s on nought, that’d be nice,” Woakes said. “But Virat’s a world-class player, so to get him out at any point in the game is important, because obviously he can go on and score big ones. That’s a big wicket for us.”
Stokes, an all-rounder himself, returned to the side after missing the Lord’s Test because of his trial on charges of affray for which he was acquitted. Sam Curran had to sit out the playing XI to make room for Stokes.
Apart from that sharp catch to get rid of Kohli, Stokes had an uneventful day, his 15 overs yielding no wicket and a review he seemed convinced of – while fielding at slip – going India’s way.
“It is unfortunate for Sam to miss out. But when someone like Ben comes back – a world-class all-rounder who has performed for the team for such a long period of time – you can understand that decision. I’m sure Sam will play a part in the series, going forward,” Woakes said.
“Ben’s a big-game player and he’s worked extremely hard since he’s come back to the group as he always does. Catching (Kohli’s wicket) is part of that – he’s constantly out there training hard on that. First slip to the spinner is an important position and he made that catch look quite easy even though it came quick. It was a big wicket.
“There was no real difference in Ben. He was the same as he always is, desperate to do well and perform for England and he’s been great around the group. Today didn’t go as well as he would have liked it to have gone, he’d have liked a couple of wickets, but that’s the game.”
Woakes might have taken the first three wickets of the day to fall, but he wasn’t getting carried away by the early success in the game.
“I don’t feel like I need to be Man of the Match every game to try to keep my place,” he said. “I just try to do my job. There’s always pressure to perform whenever you put the England shirt on – always people knocking on the door.”