Chris Woakes pointed to misfortune suffered by the injured pair Jofra Archer and Olly Stone as one of the reasons he finds himself in contention for Ashes selection this summer.
Archer was ruled out of contention with a stress fracture to his elbow sustained playing for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, while Stone will miss at least the first Test with a hamstring injury.
Woakes had himself missed over a year of first-class cricket following knee surgery before returning to play for Warwickshire earlier in the summer.
The 34-year-old has been recalled to Brendon McCullum’s England side for the match against Ireland at Lord’s which begins on Thursday – his first home Test appearance since he featured against the West Indies in June 2020.
The seamer took six for 17 on his last appearance against Ireland back in 2019 and is hoping another strong performance could kick open the door to Ashes selection.
“If you’d have asked me a month or two ago whether I’d even be in this squad – probably not, really,” said Woakes. “Looking at the pool of fast bowlers that were available, you stick Jofra (Archer) and Olly Stone in the mix as well, I might not have been. Their misfortune means I’m here.
“But that’s the game, isn’t it? Injuries happen and things do change quite quickly. All part of my prep this summer was to miss IPL, play some county cricket for Warwickshire and try and get myself in the space where, if I was to get the call, then I’m ready. Thankfully it’s worked out nicely for myself.”
Lord’s has been a fruitful ground for Woakes, playing host to his only Test hundred against India in 2018 as well as being the setting for three five-wicket hauls.
After a year in injury limbo, he spoke of his gratitude at being having given the chance to put himself in contention for the Ashes – the first Test of which is at Edgbaston in June – and an opportunity to banish memories of the 4-0 series defeat in Australia during the 2020-21 edition.
“I suppose (it has been limbo) in a way,” he said. “Last summer wasn’t nice, because I tried to put the surgery off. I didn’t want to have it until it was a last resort, but it did get to the stage where it was last resort.
“It wasn’t serious surgery, but you never know how you’re going to come back from it, especially as it was the front knee, bowler’s knee.
“Thankfully, the surgeon did a good job, I’ve healed nicely and it’s pretty good. It was a tough summer but the winter well from a white-ball perspective so I’m looking forward to this summer.
“Without a shadow of a doubt (there were dark moments), you go through days when you’re injured and you see cricket going on, not just England, any cricket with Warwickshire as well, you want to be a part of that.
“I think the older you get and the more cricket you miss, you think it’s an opportunity missed. To miss a whole summer was not ideal, and there are moments where you do get a bit dark, not overly dark.
“But it’s that feeling that you’re losing valuable time to be playing cricket, making memories and making the most of your career.”