However good the game is, it’s unlikely to match the excitement of Woakes’s 99th ODI – the World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s last July. But it will still be a special milestone for a special cricketer who has fledged from the Bears academy to become a massive contributor to England’s teams across the formats.
It was back in January 2011 that Woakes made his ODI debut, against Australia at Sydney. The proud scion of Aston Manor and Walmley opened his wicket account with the scalp of Michael Clarke and was up and running. Seven days later, in his second game, he truly announced himself as an ODI force with six for 45, including four of the Aussies’ top six (Clarke again among his victims) at Brisbane.
Woakes was on the way to becoming a linchpin of England’s ODI team, his all-round skills complemented by an exemplary character. This international cricket A-lister, a World Cup winner, remains utterly unaffected by his success – a true role model. Returning to Edgbaston he will never make a song and dance about what he has achieved – but he might well be found in the players’ dining room chatting to Kaz. The people who have known and supported him for years remain close. ‘Woakesy’ is, and will always remain, as balanced and well-rooted as they come.
The esteem and affection in which he is held at Edgbaston was shown in abundance in a public house in Manchester in 2016. The Bears were in the middle of a championship match against Lancashire at Old Trafford when England opened their ODI series with a day-nighter against Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge.
Chasing 286 for nine, England were in a big pickle at 82 for six when Woakes went in to join Jos Buttler at the crease. In the pub, a gaggle of Bears players, staff and hangers-on hoped for perhaps a blow or two in anger from their man before the ship subsided. They got rather more than that.
Woakes and Buttler added 138 in 24 overs to keep the game alive and then, after Buttler and David Willey fell in quick succession, Woakes was joined by Liam Plunkett with 51 still needed. Batting with immense nous and skill, Woakes steered the total upwards. As England crept towards the victory target, another equation loomed – could Woakesy reach his ODI maiden century?
The Bears’ posse in the bar wanted both, of course – but it was clear that, if they could chose one, it would be the Woakes ton.
Neither came to pass. Woakes ended on 95 not out (92 balls, just four fours) and the match was tied. But what an innings – this proud Bear was on his way to the heart of the national team’s affection as well his county’s.
In Cape Town tomorrow, all Bears will be hoping that Woakes will take the field for his 100th ODI averaging 24.70 with the bat (very respectable for a player coming in down the order in that format) and having taken 142 wickets at 30.47. He is still waiting for that ODI maiden ton and he needs just eight wickets to reach 150.
To tick both those off in Newlands would be a decent way to start the series…