It says much about his emergence that Warwickshire face five days of cricket at Grace Road bemoaning the absence of a teenager.
Such has been the development of Chris Woakes, however, that his departure on England Under-19 duty is a major blow. Only three times have Warwickshire dismissed a side out twice in the championship since the start of 2007 and Woakes (right) provided the key performance on two occasions. He has, from nowhere, become the first player selected.
Warwickshire had no choice but to let him go. The England Under-19 squad has first call on players until they have accrued enough appearances, though Warwickshire have successfully argued that Woakes can miss the under-19’s limited-overs programme “It’s always an honour to represent your county but ‘Woakesy’s’ absence does knock us,” Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s director of cricket, said. “He has amazed all of us. He’s taking five-fors and winning us games, so losing him is a blow.”
Woakes may not be the only absentee in Grace Road over the next few days. Chris Martin, the New Zealand fast bowler, is also a doubt with a hamstring injury while Michael Powell is suffering from a bout of flu.
Jimmy Anyon has been drafted into the squads as a replacement for Martin. Though Anyon has fully recovered from his ankle injury the management are concerned that he is lacking meaningful cricket in recent weeks.
Naqaash Tahir also returns. He might be viewed as a like-for-like replacement for Woakes but, while the teenager’s career is in the ascendancy, Naqaash is in need of reviving his. “Naqaash has under-performed so far this season,” Giles said. “Hopefully he will think he has a point to prove.”
Andy Miller is in the championship squad for the first time, though likely to be 12th man. Boyd Rankin, injured since April, bowled in the nets yesterday and is aiming to play for the second XI next week.
After this evening’s floodlit Pro-40match (4.40pm) the championship match tomorrow will star at noon. Though Warwickshire lost their first Pro40 match, there were signs of an improvement in form. “Kent are a good side, but there were opportunities to win that game,” Giles said. “Still, it was encouraging and we are executing our plans much better.”
Allan Donald was shocked by the low ebb in the dressing-room when the season started but feels huge strides have been made. “They [the players] had slipped into a blame culture over the last couple of years,” he said. “There was an amazing fear about the place. There was a sense of ‘are we good enough to turn things around’. But all credit to Ash and the players. They’ve turned things around. ”
Luke Parker retains his place tonight while Lee Daggett is recalled. Daggett, Parker and Navdeep Poonia are out of contract in weeks. The sense is that Giles is pleased by the response of most of his squad and is likely to offer contract extensions to more than seemed likely even weeks ago.