Chris Woakes can ditch his billing as England’s unluckiest bowler after more than doubling his career Test wickets tally in one innings.
Woakes (3-30) and Chris Jordan (3-32) both registered new career Test bests at The Oval as England’s seamers hustled India out for 148 despite captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s admirable 82.
After Alastair Cook and Sam Robson then closed day one of this fifth Investec Test with 62 on the board for no loss, and therefore their highest opening stand together to date, England were already on the perfect course to close out a series victory from 2-1 up.
Woakes came into this contest with doubts being expressed by some about his effectiveness at the highest level after just two wickets spread over three Tests.
But captain Cook had expressed none, describing Woakes as outstandingly unlucky – especially in England’s series-levelling win at the Ageas Bowl last month.
The man himself did not lose faith either, and is naturally delighted to have begun to prove himself properly.
“I suppose you often think ‘am I ever going to pick up a wicket?’,” he said.
“But you try to keep telling yourself you’re doing the right things.
“I felt like today I did that and got those rewards.
“It can be disheartening sometimes when you do bowl well and don’t pick up wickets.
“But as long as you are contributing to the team in some way – whether it’s holding up an end or bowling in a partnership – you can carry on.”
Woakes and Jordan were bowling a little in the shadow of Stuart Broad and James Anderson in last week’s quick kill at Old Trafford.
But here, they showed they can have a cutting edge too.
“It’s nice to finally pick up a few wickets ... and contribute,” added Woakes.
“I felt like I’d bowled reasonably well over the last few Test matches and not quite got the rewards.”
His performance exemplified a clinical display for England, who were nonetheless frustrated by Dhoni in a last-wicket stand of 58 with Ishant Sharma.
“It’s been a very good day,” said the Warwickshire pace bowler.
“Winning the toss and bowling first, and then the way Broady and Jimmy set the tone again was fantastic – and to bowl them out for less than 150 was perfect.
“The pressure we’re building from both ends has helped in the last couple of games.
“Then the way the boys finished on 60 without loss was a very good end to the day as well,” he said.
Woakes was still wicketless when Cook posted Yorkshire’s Joe Root at an unaccustomed short gully, with a helmet on, where he snaffled a smart catch to see off Murali Vijay.
It was an apt indication that things are going right for England and their captain, all of a sudden.
Woakes said: “It was the captain’s idea.
“A couple had fallen short in that area, so he decided to stick Rooty in under the lid a little bit closer – and obviously it worked.
“So it was good captaincy on Cookie’s part.”
There was distinctly less to cheer India, despite Dhoni’s rearguard.
Their fielding coach Trevor Penney conceded little had gone right for a team now on a losing run.
“It was a good toss to win. It did a bit today and the English guys bowled really well,” said Penney.
“The first session was crucial, not to lose that many wickets and that sort of set us back for a pretty poor day really.”
Dhoni’s efforts, in tough batting conditions, put others’ struggles into context.
“He had a great day and showed our top order how to do it really,” added Penney.
“The first two Tests, we got big runs and everyone was getting scores.
“It’s just that we’ve had a bad couple of games, hit a bad patch ... but I hope we can really fight back from tomorrow.”
Essex wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes will join Surrey at the end of the season.
Both counties announced the news yesterday, with the 21-year-old making the move after finding his keeping opportunities limited by the presence of Essex captain James Foster.
The England Lion could face a tough battle for a place behind the stumps at the Oval, with club captain Gary Wilson and England keeper Steven Davies, who has taken a break from handling the gloves this season, both providing competition.
Foakes has played 32 first-class games for Essex, scoring over 1,200 runs at an average of 31.35 with three centuries and six fifties. His inability to displace Foster behind the stumps, though, means he has taken only 23 catches while his only stumping came in one-day cricket.