With 291 runs to win on the final day of the fourth Test, and 10 second innings wickets remaining, Chris Woakes says England are eyeing up a third blockbuster chase in as many years.
The success of achieving a target of 358 against Australia in 2019 felt like a Ben Stokes inspired anomaly, before the trick was repeated last August against Pakistan, when 277 was ticked off at Emirates Old Trafford. Even the success of the World Cup Final two years ago against New Zealand may also be considered another chapter in the tome of this erratic yet entertaining side.
Now faced with 368 for victory, a number no England side has ever overcome, their starting point on Monday of 77 for no loss, thanks to openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, gives them much optimism of another famous win, this time against India at The Oval.
“To go all the way and chase down that score would be an incredible effort, it would be a great, great chase,” said Woakes.
“We just have to tick it off slowly. The guys have done a great job tonight, put us in a good position to start tomorrow. We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves, naturally, you have to go away and realise that tomorrow morning is going to be tricky again. To get 290 on a day-five pitch always sounds like a tough ask but we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves that this pitch is still good for batting and we can do it if we bat well all the way down.”
Woakes was in the XI for all three notable wins in the last couple of years. His biggest contribution came against Pakistan in 2020’s heist, with an unbeaten 84. Of course, there is no Stokes or Jos Buttler, whose 75 alongside the Warwickshire allrounder contributed to a stand of 139 between the pair. But Woakes feels the experience he and others have garnered from being around for those chases, whether in the team or the wider squad, has instilled a belief that the hosts and a desire to be part of such memorable moments.
“I think this team has done some special things over the last few years as an England side in different formats and these are the times you want to be part of it, on a day five chase trying to do something special. It’s a great place to be.
“You need guys to get themselves in and create big partnerships and that puts pressure on the opposition from a bowling point of view. We’ve been in this position many times as a side and when you’re bowling, you’re under pressure to take wickets. I think naturally you have to take it off slowly, each run is chipping away at the opposition. The longer you can get guys batting together and create a partnership that makes it more difficult for the opposition.”
He anticipates a strong retaliation from India after being quelled for most of the evening session by Burns and Hameed. The tourists started brightly, dominating most of day four’s play on their way to 466 all out to lead by 366. And given how Virat Kohli wound up his charges to give England “hell” on the final day at Lord’s to secure a win that put them 1-0 up, no doubt he will issue a similar rallying cry before 11am on Monday in a bid to inspire another win to go 2-1 up.
“I expect them to try and get under our skin at times and that is part of Test cricket,” said Woakes. “We’ve played for four solid days here. Both teams have put in a shift and no team will want to give in easily.
“You certainly expect that and whether they do that, I don’t know. But, look, we’ll be concentrating on what we need to do, which is obviously to survive, and try and score 291 runs tomorrow to try and pull off a crucial win.”