Chris Woakes: 'I hope I've done enough to be in that starting XI, but competition is high'

Chris Woakes hopes England can end run of first Test defeats (0:49)

He's proud of England's comeback against WI, but hopes to start better against Pakistan (0:49)

In many ways, it was the archetypal Chris Woakes performance. Left out for the first Test against West Indies, he didn't voice his frustrations in the manner of Stuart Broad (if anyone had thought to ask, he would have doubtless said the team comes first); recalled for the second, he quietly pocketed his 100th Test wicket as part of five in the match (Broad took six); and in the third, Woakes claimed a fourth Test five-for… only marginally overshadowed by Broad's six-for, ten in the match and 500th overall.

Perhaps the only surprise is that he hasn't found himself behind Broad and James Anderson in the line for plaudits (for the record, Woakes has 11 wickets at 16.63 this summer, Anderson five at 30.00). Amid the talk about England's two fast-bowling greats, and the depth of seam-bowling strength available to Joe Root and Chris Silverwood - particularly in home conditions - it might be overlooked that in Woakes they have one of Test cricket's outstanding wingmen.

It is a role Woakes seems happy to fulfil. Even though only two bowlers - Anderson and Australia's Pat Cummins - have lower Test bowling averages in England since Woakes made his debut in 2013, he concedes he doesn't know if he will be picked for this week's opener against Pakistan. "If I'm selected then great, but if not I'll get myself ready for whenever the next game is," he said on Monday, after rejoining the team's bio-secure bubble at Emirates Old Trafford.

"I hope I've done enough to be in that starting XI, but competition is high at the minute," he said. "We've got still two of England's greats charging in and taking wickets every time they play and we've got exciting fast bowlers as well. It's not an easy team to be cemented in. My record in England is brilliant. I'm obviously pleased with that. I want to keep getting better, improving myself. Every time I get the opportunity to play for England, home or away, I give 110% and try to do my best for the team."

Unsurprisingly, sporting a post-lockdown Alice band did not lead to David Beckham-levels of scrutiny for Woakes (though only one of them has a World Cup winner's medal). A dedicated Aston Villa fan, Woakes' quick trim between Test series might mean his haircut is now edging towards Jack Grealish territory - "not quite," he protests, "not as much product as Jack has in his" - but in footballing parlance, Woakes will continue to do the unglamorous job of box-to-box workhorse rather than midfield showman.

"I honestly really don't mind - I'm not one for being the centre of attention," Woakes said of his status. "Don't get me wrong, I want to go on the field and perform, I want to make match-winning performances for England, but it really doesn't bother me if I'm first choice to write about or not, to be brutally honest. My stats have been mentioned: they're very good in England and I want to keep working on those, keep improving them, make them as good as they can be. At my age, where I'm now 31, it's probably unlikely I'm going to go on and get 500 Test wickets like Jimmy and Broady, but I still want to go on and get as many as I can."

England's record-breaking new-ball pair will undoubtedly be a hard act to follow. Anderson had just turned 31 when Woakes debuted, but he already had more than 300 Test wickets to his name. That said, he has added another 265 since then, which ought to encourage Woakes that there is plenty more to come.

One factor in whether he retains his place against Pakistan is likely to be the fitness of Ben Stokes. England played a four-man pace attack in the West Indies decider, as well as the spinner Dom Bess, with Woakes and Jofra Archer providing support to Broad and Anderson. But if Stokes' sore quad has settled enough to allow him to play a full part with the ball - and he was able to have a gentle bowl in training on Monday - there may be a temptation to bring back Zak Crawley at No. 3.

That would likely see one of the seamers returned to drinks duty - perhaps more than one, if Mark Wood or Sam Curran impresses in the nets. Good problems for Root and Silverwood to have, no doubt, as they seek to hit the ground running against a team they haven't beaten in four Test series, going back to 2010.

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But perhaps the identity of the opposition should also mean England think long and hard about whether to leave out Woakes again. It was Pakistan's arrival four years ago that coincided with his emergence as a Test bowler of distinction, with 26 wickets in the drawn series; overall, he averages 16.93 against them, from five Tests.

"That was a real big turning point for me, 2016. I found a bit of rhythm, got the ball moving in the air and bowled at decent pace that summer," he said. "Thankfully that went really well. So hopefully I can draw on those memories for this series coming up. I feel like I've changed as a cricketer since then: with experience and time you develop new skills. But also I feel like I've become a lot more consistent, both as a cricketer and as a person as well. It's the complete package: the older you get and you learn your game a little bit more."

In time, we might come to see "the complete package" as an apt description for Woakes. Not that he'll be fussed either way.