Woakes has been in very good form in the warm-up games. © Getty
Chris Woakes, the in-form England allrounder, starred with a six-wicket haul as the tourists survived an injury scare on the opening day of their tour game against the Cricket Australia XI on Wednesday (November 15). The impressive Woakes finished with 6 for 54 from 18 overs to be the shining light of England’s attack, as the inexperienced CA XI fought hard to reach stumps at 9/249 in Townsville.
Woakes claimed two wickets in each session although the hosts held firm after embarrassingly being routed for a measly 75 in Adelaide just four days ago. England rested spearhead James Anderson, who is fighting an illness, and brought in veteran Stuart Broad.
Broad, who was rested in Adelaide, was inconsistent in the early going but found his rhythm as the day wore on. The 31-year-old finally took his first wicket just before stumps when he had the plucky Gurinder Sandhu (25) edging to third slip. Broad finished with 1 for 33 from 16 overs.
In his first match of the tour, key allrounder Moeen Ali (0 for 39 from 16 overs) got through unscathed and bowled an accurate initial eight-over spell to concede just 19 runs. He was unable to take a wicket but continued to bowl tightly in a much-needed tonic for England ahead of the first Test.
In the most eventful moment of day one, England received a major scare when wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow injured his finger just after lunch and had to be taken off the field. But Bairstow returned behind the stumps an hour later after England officials had confirmed he had escaped with bruising to his left hand’s middle finger. Ben Foakes, England’s reserve ‘keeper, took the gloves during Bairstow’s absence.
The luckless tourists could ill-afford to suffer any more injuries having just regained Moeen after he had missed the opening two tour games with a side strain. Paceman Steven Finn has already suffered a tour-ending knee injury and quick Jake Ball sustained ankle ligament damage against the CA XI in Adelaide last week but is expected to be fit for the first Test.
England started sluggishly against the CA XI’s opening pair of Jake Carder (39) and Nick Larkin (30), who almost batted the entirety of the first session during a 66-run stand. However, Woakes saved England from a humbling wicketless opening session by removing the opening batsmen in quick succession.
Woakes continued his sizzling form after lunch snaring the wickets of Ryan Gibson (7) and Jason Sangha (0) to cap off a stunning return of 4 for 15 from his second spell. Allrounder Craig Overton (2 for 32 from 18 overs) looked dangerous in an impressive display, highlighted by occasionally wickedly moving the ball around as he pushes for a first Test berth. Overton was rewarded when he claimed the wicket of rising star Will Pucovski (20) with a ball that moved away as the CA XI slumped to 5 for 118 before tea.
However, captain Matthew Short (51) ensured the CA XI would muster a respectable total during an impressive rear-guard action. Short was dropped twice off the bowling of an unlucky Mason Crane (0 for 87) but his 122-ball innings was finally ended by Woakes late in the day.
Crane, the young legspinner, looked dangerous at times against the counterattacking CA XI batsmen but he was expensive, most notably leaking 16 runs in the final over of the day. This represents England’s final warm-up match before the first Test starts on November 23 and the tourists will be desperately hoping to avoid any more injury frights for the remaining three days.
Brief scores: Cricket Australia XI 249/9 (Matthew Short 51, Jake Carder 39; Chris Woakes 6-54, Craig Overton 2-32) vs England