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Sri Lanka vs England 2020-21

Sri Lanka vs England 2020-21

Had it not been for an ill-starred bout of car-pooling en route from Birmingham to Heathrow Airport, Chris Woakes might well have been sizing up a golden opportunity to extend his all-round credentials against Sri Lanka, and offer England the seam-bowling balance they will be so sorely lacking in the absence of Ben Stokes.

Instead, having spent seven days in quarantine as a precautionary measure following Moeen Ali’s positive test for Covid-19, Woakes has effectively ruled himself out of contention for Thursday’s first Test at Galle. And while an adherence to social-distancing protocols during his minibus trip with Moeen ensured he avoided picking up the virus himself, he concedes that a surfeit of caution was understandable after finally being “let back out into the wild”.

“I’ve had no symptoms for myself thankfully,” he said. “Once I started self-isolating you do start to worry, because you don’t know down the line at what point those symptoms are about to start. Every time I woke up in the morning I was double-checking myself to make sure I didn’t have any symptoms and thankfully I haven’t had any. Obviously I’ve had four negative tests in the last week. It’s become the norm now, but not having four tests a week would be ideal to be honest.”

Woakes was released from his hotel room on Saturday, and had his first outing in the nets on Monday. However, given the oppressive, humid conditions that England are set to face in their two back-to-back contests in Galle, as well as the challenge of a four-Test campaign in India next month, he is prepared to accept that time is not on his side this week.

“It was a tricky seven days,” Woakes said. “People are quarantining all around the world at the minute – I don’t know how the guys did it going to Australia and doing 14 days – but it’s good to be back amongst the group and obviously good to be back out on the training field, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is what I’m here for.”

It is not as though Woakes needs to prove his credentials to the England management after a stellar 18 months – starting with his role in England’s World Cup victory, of course, but culminating in a series of telling displays with bat and ball across formats and conditions. He claimed a matchwinning five-wicket haul against West Indies at Old Trafford and a vital unbeaten 84 at the same venue against Pakistan, while he also showcased a new-found confidence overseas in his two appearances against New Zealand and South Africa last winter.

And given the allrounder-laden methods that secured England a 3-0 series win on their last completed tour of Sri Lanka in 2018-19, Woakes would have been the obvious candidate to slot in at No. 7 in Stokes’ absence. Instead, he will have to settle for getting his training up to speed, and ensuring he is ready for the next opportunity, which could come quickly given the likely need to rotate England’s seamers in a tightly packed winter itinerary.

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