England captain believes Woakes and Hales are primed for biggest game of their careers
Durban: England captain Alastair Cook believes Chris Woakes and Alex Hales are primed and ready for the biggest game of their careers.
The Boxing Day Test in Durban, against a South African side ranked number one in the world, is a marquee match for any player — even one of Cook’s experience.
Chris Woakes and Alex Hales. Pics/Getty Images
But for Hales, who will make his Test debut at the top of the order, and Woakes, returning after 18 months as James Anderson’s stand-in, it is both a major challenge and a brilliant chance.
Woakes has played four Tests and although his record is modest, England have no doubt he is the man to replace their leading wicket-taker, who remains stricken with a calf strain.
"Chris is going to play, anyone who’s seen practice over the 24 hours would have seen that we’ve concentrated mainly on our XI so it’s no surprise," said Cook, fulfilling his usual press duties not only on Christmas morning but also his 31st birthday.
"He’s been around the side for a while and what an opportunity it is for him to play. He’s ready to go now, he’s learned his trade, and it’s about him delivering on the big stage for England, which he can do. Woakesy’s desperate to be given opportunities, it’s been quite hard in one sense for him to get in the side with how fit Jimmy and Stuart Broad have been and how long they’ve been around, but this is a great opportunity."