Warwickshire seamer Chris Woakes has noticeably put on some extra pace since he first broke into the England set-up. Here, he shares some technical tips on how to crank it up a gear.
Pushing The Body
The first step to getting quicker was learning what my body could take and what it couldn’t. I’d been in and around 80-83mph for four years, and I got stuck in a mindset that this was what I could do. It was only when I opened up to a few ideas about how to increase my pace that it started to work.
Strong Front Arm
I learned that if I used my front arm more it would increase my pace. People say you need to get your front arm high, but it’s more important what you do with that front arm. What I worked on was to get my elbow up as high as I could, and once it got to that point, letting the elbow pull down the left side of my body as sharply as possible, acting like a lever to pull the body through the action. It works almost like a delayed reaction – you want the elbow to come down before the bowling arm comes over, working like a slingshot. Only then do you get that snap.
Find Your Run-Up
I’ve tinkered with my run-up. The basics have remained the same but I’ve injected more intensity and pace into it. And that took a while, because all bowlers are rhythm bowlers, and when you’re running in you don’t want to feel like you’re charging in and losing control. I run in faster now than I did a couple of years ago, but it took time to get used to the change.
The Braced Front Leg
I’ve always had a strong, braced front leg. Speaking to coaches, they say the quickest bowlers have a braced front leg because it acts as a springboard for the body to come over the top and create that momentum in the delivery.
It’s Great When You’re Straight
My action is quite repeatable, and straight lines are most important to me. My feet are well aligned, so when I land at the crease everything’s going towards off stump. I always find that if my front foot and back foot are in line towards the off stump, everything else in my action follows suit.
I’ve always been a front-on bowler, with my feet and my upper body aligned straight at the target and good momentum and intensity going through the crease. It’s not for everyone – and there are plenty of effective side-on bowlers around – but I find that being front-on reduces the stress on my back, and gives me better timing in the delivery.
Get The Wobble On
The ‘wobble ball’ is a Jimmy Anderson creation and he’s been a big influence on me learning it. I hold the ball a little wider on the seam with my fingers slightly wider apart, but still holding the ball for an away-swinger with the seam pointing towards the slips. But my wrist will still be set up for an in-swinger. The effect is that the seam wobbles, and when the ball lands on that seam it can veer off the straight. It’s an amazing ball when it comes out right, and it’s all the weirder for me to bowl it because I grew up working on presenting a pure ‘proud’ seam, and trying to get it to swing conventionally, and now I’m actively encouraging it to wobble.
Locate The Red Mist
There are times when you need to get in the batsman’s face. It’s something I can do. Mostly I prefer to keep calm and in control – if I was wound up all the time I think it would be detrimental – but it depends on the situation. Sometimes you know that what you’re doing as a bowler only gets you so far, and you have to go outside of that to get on top of the opposition. There have been a few times in county cricket when the red mist has come down.
We played Northants in 2014 and we needed to win that game. I’d come back from England, not been selected in the final XI, so I was annoyed. James Middlebrook was batting really well but we needed to get rid of him, so I went round the wicket and bowled a load of short stuff to a leg-side field. I bounced him out and got a few others with the same tactic. Sometimes it needs a bit of red mist to make something happen.