Chris Woakes has admitted he has been “frustrated” by his performances in England’s first two games of the World Cup but insisted the team have travelled determined to “knock the subcontinental teams off their perch”.
Woakes has a key role as an opening bowler in setting the tone for his side’s performances in the field, but in both matches so far his early overs have been ruthlessly punished. To make matters worse, whoever has opened at the other end has thrived: against New Zealand Woakes’ first two overs went for 19 while Sam Curran started with two maidens and took one wicket, while against Bangladesh Woakes’ opening four overs cost 34 runs while Reece Topley gave up only 10, while taking three wickets.
“I’d like to have gone a bit better,” Woakes said. “The New Zealand game wasn’t great for the majority of us, really. It’s hard to reflect too much on a game where we probably didn’t get enough with the bat, and then the surface certainly got a lot better to bat on under the lights, but I wouldn’t have said that I’ve bowled as well as I know I can.
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“Obviously it’s a long tournament, but I certainly feel that I would’ve liked to have bowled a bit better. You don’t want to peak too soon, I suppose. But at the same time, you still want to put in strong performances for the team.”
England are defending the title they won at home in 2019 and, having also won last year’s T20 World Cup, Woakes believes that in the eyes of others they have become the team to beat. “We’ve had a little bit of target on our back for a while as a white-ball team,” he said. “People have got expectations of us and we’ve certainly got our own expectations of ourselves. It’s an incredibly tough challenge to win in India. I think the subcontinental teams will feel more at home with the conditions, and that makes it extremely hard for us to knock them off their perch. But we’ve got the squad and the players to be able to compete.”
Against Bangladesh Woakes did improve after his slow start, taking two wickets and conceding only 11 runs in his final four overs. “Naturally, being a bit frustrated with how I started the two games, it was nice to bounce back,” he said. “Obviously wickets in the powerplay, particularly in these conditions, are quite important. You’ve got to make sure that you’re working hard to do that.”
Aged 34 and nearly 13 years after his ODI debut Woakes has also introduced a few novelties: he dismissed Litton Das, the Bangladesh vice-captain, with a newly modified off-cutter, while in preparation for this tournament he has added a leg-cutter to his repertoire. “I’ve bowled off-cutters throughout my career – I’ve just tried to change the way that the seam is presented with it,” he said. “I feel like, in these conditions, if I can bowl it with the seam up and it grabs the seam, it either holds or skids a little bit better. The delivery itself is the same, it’s just the way the seam comes out, that’s something I’ve been working on.
“Then I was also working on a leg-cutter, which I bowled a lot in that second spell. I’ve been working on it since the summer, after the Ashes. I obviously had this in mind, coming here to Asia. I think it could be a wicket taking delivery, taking the ball away from the right-hander.
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“But it was something which I just figured my white-ball game could do with really, regardless of the World Cup. You’re always trying to adapt your game and develop it regardless of your age, trying to make sure you’re one step ahead of the batters I suppose.”
Having travelled from Dharamsala to Delhi on Wednesday, England’s players enjoyed a day off on Thursday, before their focus shifts to Sunday’s game against Afghanistan. Scores at Arun Jaitley Stadium have been high so far: while across the tournament batters have scored at six runs an over, in Delhi they have managed 7.2. “It looks like it’s been relatively high scoring,” Woakes said. “We’ll expect that but we’re coming up against a team who can really compete on their day. We won’t be taking them lightly.”