Chris Woakes confident hard-fought Ashes battle will not get personal

The build-up to the First Test has been overshadowed by racism and sexism scandals.

By Press Association Published: 2 December 2021 - 11.46am

England all-rounder Chris Woakes says he does not expect “personal” issues to be used in any sledging during the upcoming Ashes series.

The build-up to the first Test, which gets under way in Brisbane next Wednesday, has been overshadowed by racism and sexism scandals.

Find out how to watch every ball of The Ashes on BT Sport

English cricket has been engulfed by claims of institutional racism, while Tim Paine stepped down from his role as Australia captain last month following sexting revelations.

Tim Paine file photo
Tim Paine stepped down as Australia captain last month following sexting revelations (Mike Egerton/PA)

Woakes said: “Whatever goes on the field, goes on the field, and an Ashes series raises that rivalry.

“I think what’s happened in both camps, a lot of the issues are personal and cricket is played best when that sort of stuff is left to the side and we let the skills do the talking, which I’m sure will happen.

“In my experience, playing in three Ashes series, it’s not overstepped the line once when I’ve been around.

“I don’t see it being any different. I’m sure the cricket will be hard-fought, as it always is, and it will be a great series to watch.”

“I think what’s happened in both camps, a lot of the issues are personal and cricket is played best when that sort of stuff is left to the side and we let the skills do the talking”
- Chris Woakes

Woakes says England are ready to meet the twin-pronged challenge of bowling with the Kookaburra ball and trying to dismiss Australia’s star batsman Steve Smith.

The former Australia captain was named man of the series in the 2019 Ashes in England, scoring three hundreds and three fifties for a total of 774 runs at an average of 110.57.

“I’ve bowled at Steve quite a lot. He’s a world-class player and had a lot of success against us as an England team,” Woakes said.

“We’ve got to figure out ways to keep him quiet because, relatively speaking, when he does well Australia do well.

England v Australia – Fourth Test – Day Two – 2019 Ashes Series – Emirates Old Trafford
Steve Smith scored 774 runs for Australia during the 2019 Ashes series in England (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I feel I have got him a few times but he’s probably been on 150 at the time!

“It would be nice to get him a little bit earlier and we need some good plans against him.”

On comparing the Kookaburra ball to the Dukes, which is used in England, Woakes said: “It’s very different to what we’re used to back home.

“But we’ve got a lot of experienced guys who have played all around the world and used the Kookaburra quite a bit.

England v Pakistan – Third ODI – Edgbaston
Ben Stokes took two wickets in an Ashes warm-up game on his return to cricket (Martin Rickett/PA)

“So I suppose we’ll touch base with those guys and see what works.

“It’s trying to experiment different things with it because trying to get the ball to move sideways is probably the biggest challenge here. But obviously trying to get the ball off the straight is quite important.

“You naturally bowl a bit shorter here, but you don’t want to get drawn into bowling too short. Whichever team adapts to the (Gabba) pitch will probably come out on top.”

Preparations for both sides have been undermined by rain with England’s three-day practice match last week washed out except for 29 overs.

England did get some action on Thursday as the touring England Lions reached 226 for four against them at Wellington Point in Queensland.

Ben Stokes, playing for the first time since taking an indefinite break from all cricket in July to prioritise his mental well-being and rest a finger which he had fractured, took two wickets.

“The weather hasn’t been what you’d probably expect it to be in Australia,” said Woakes, who says he can play in the same Ashes team as fellow all-rounder Stokes.

“But it was great to be out there and get some match practice. The lads have trained quite a bit but nothing better than being out in the middle and training for what we’re going to be coming up against in the next few weeks.

“You can do as many indoor nets and net sessions as you want, but middle practice is really important going into such a big series.”

Australia have confirmed their big selection call, with Alex Carey set to make his Test debut in the series opener, taking the wicketkeeping gloves from departed captain Paine as Pat Cummins prepares to skipper the hosts.

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