Woakes said jostling for places in England’s batting line-up over recent years had led to a situation where they now make mammoth targets appear infinitely achievable. Just look at their second-highest successful run chase to win the third ODI against Pakistan without their best white-ball batsman – the resting Jos Buttler – on Tuesday. And he believed the same could be said of the bowlers now that Archer had entered the mix.
“The batters have obviously set the benchmark over the last few years, there’s always been competition for places there – more so maybe than the bowling – and this, I suppose, has done the same for the bowlers,” Woakes said. “It’s always good to have competition, at international level, that’s always going to be the case, so yeah, I think it’s been a good thing.”
Archer was not named in England’s preliminary World Cup squad but, having been rested after just one T20I and two ODI performances against Ireland and Pakistan – earmarked by selectors as auditions for the West Indies-born fast bowler since he qualified to represent England – indications are that they have seen enough to justify his late inclusion.
When asked previously, Woakes’ attitude towards Archer coming into the World Cup squad at the expense of a player who had helped England become the No. 1 one-day side could perhaps best be described as pragmatic.
“Fair probably is not the right word,” Woakes told the BBC in April on the eve of Archer’s inclusion in the squads to face Ireland and Pakistan. “It probably wouldn’t be fair morally, but at the same time it’s the nature of international sport.”
Woakes’ performance against Pakistan in Bristol was a timely reminder of his credentials ahead of the selectors finalising England’s World Cup squad next week. Until his 4 for 67 off 10 overs on Tuesday, Woakes’ only multiple-wicket hauls during his comeback from knee tendinitis were 2 for 59 in the Caribbean in February and 3 for 47 in a Royal London Cup game for Warwickshire.
“I felt better with the new ball today [Tuesday] in particular, so hopefully that’s a good sign,” Woakes said.
Asked after the match if he felt that his own World Cup place was safe, however, Woakes replied: “Safe, safe is probably not the word, but you always feel like you need to put in performances and I’m pleased I managed to put in a good performance today. You hope you are safe, but I suppose until that squad’s selected you’re not. Hopefully I am, but we’ll see.”
Nor was the talk among the other fast bowlers that Archer’s spot was safe.
“I don’t know. We don’t sit down and pick our 15. We are here to do a job. That’s what we’ve done so far in this series,” Woakes said. “Everyone’s getting on with their work, trying to improve, as they always have done.
“Today was a pretty good bowling performance. I think at one stage, when guys were set in, a score close to 400 was looking on. I think that’s the situation we will find ourselves in – we all know that every time we get a chance to perform, we try to take that with both hands and I think everyone’s feeling that same pressure.
“The selectors, thankfully, have got the tough task of making the call. Someone, unfortunately, will miss out but we don’t sit in the dressing room talking about, ‘is it going to be me?’, ‘is it going to be you?’ I think everyone knows it’s there and it’s creating a good competitive edge to the team but we don’t talk about who is going to miss out and who is going to be selected.”