ASHES 2023

Woakes asks England not to rely on 'superhuman' Stokes to close out win

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Ben Stokes has been a 'superhuman' for England but Woakes hopes his services won't be required in the exciting chase at Leeds
Ben Stokes has been a 'superhuman' for England but Woakes hopes his services won't be required in the exciting chase at Leeds © Getty

Whenever Australia have allowed themselves to feel they are ahead in any recent Ashes contest, Ben Stokes has manifested himself in front of them as something of a reality check. Four summers ago in Headingley, he pulled a rabbit out of the hat to give England a one-wicket win when all hopes seemed extinguished. He nearly produced an encore of that once-in-a-career knock with a 155 atLord's last week, and in Leeds, the England captain's crucial 80 cut Australia's lead to just 26 and kept his side within touching distance.

Stokes's presence bodes well for England, who need only 224 more runs with all 10 wickets intact to hit back in the Ashes series, that they currently trail 0-2. 'Superhuman' the England captain might be, Chris Woakes hopes his team doesn't rely only on him to close out victory. "It would be nice to do it a little bit easier. We don't want to be reliant on Ben all the time," he said.

"Although we do realise he's superhuman, he can't do it every time. Across the board, from 1 to 11, we've got to put a good shift in and try and get us over the line. It's an opportunity to do something special. There is more excitement than nerves. We are excited at the thought of chasing down a score, winning the Test and keeping ourselves in the series."

Chasing has been a particular strong point of England under the Stokes-Brendon McCullum combine. In the last home summer, they hunted down 250-plus scores on four occasions. But Woakes was wary of writing the visitors out of the contest just yet. "We know we can chase scores as a team. It suits us. This team is always looking to be the aggressor and put a foot forward.

"But the scores haven't been overly high in this game so you don't just walk into it thinking it's going to be a doddle. We're going to have to play well. Australia will be thinking they are 10 wickets away from winning an Ashes series in England as well, so it's an exciting day for both teams."

Woakes, playing his first game of the series, has been vital in setting up England's victory push on the fourth day. He dismissed Australia's best batter of the series so far - Usman Khawaja - last evening and followed that up by having first-innings centurion Mitchell Marsh caught behind and then cleaned up Alex Carey not much later. Despite play beginning as late as 4.45 PM, England needed only 20.1 overs to take the six remaining wickets as the tourists fell from 116/4 to 224 all-out.

"When it's a long day of rain, you always feel if you do get that window, it's not easy for the batting side," Woakes said. "Little windows in Test matches can make a huge difference and we felt that was an opportunity for us to take. We did well to bowl them out. If we were given this opportunity at the end of the first innings, I think we would've taken it."

That Australia even managed to push the total lead to 250 was chiefly down to Travis Head, who counter-attacked his way out of a short-ball barrage to score a useful 77. Australia's No.5 remains hopeful that the conditions and England's own approach will provide the opportunity for the team to banish the ghosts from four years ago and seal the first Ashes win in England since 2001.

"It's nice that it is here again. Hopefully we can redeem ourselves from '19 at this place," Head said. "It's a huge day in the series. It would be silly from both camps not to say there are nerves. Knowing what we can achieve, knowing that they can fight back to 2-1, there is a lot on the table.

"They are going to play aggressively, they will come hard and hopefully that creates opportunity."




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