Chris Woakes is confident he can put this year’s “nightmare” run of injuries behind him after returning to England colours in their one-day international warm-up win over Hong Kong.
Woakes bowled six energetic overs in the still searing temperatures of the United Arab Emirates and hit handy runs down the order in a match which saw the headline roles with bat and ball for the tourists fall to Moeen Ali and David Willey.
Moeen hit five sixes in his 71 from just 36 balls down at number seven as England piled up 342-8 at the Sheikh Zayed Oval.
Then Yorkshire’s new signing Willey finished with 4-43 as Hong Kong were bowled out for 173.
Woakes’s figures were less notable, but he was still smiling after playing a full role again in the penultimate month of a year in which he has been absent more often than not.
Woakes was troubled first by a stress injury in his foot and then the complication – during rehabilitation – of a knee problem.
Even after returning for three ODIs against Australia at the end of the summer, he was not fully fit when England needed a Test tour replacement last month for the injured Steven Finn.
“The last nine months have been a bit up and down with injury,” he said.
“You can never take playing for England for granted.
“It’s been a bit of a nightmare of a summer, but I’m really excited about the series coming up (against Pakistan).”
The first of four matches is on Wednesday, with Woakes set to feature again – having missed eight ODIs in all since the end of England’s miserable World Cup campaign last winter.
In that time, he also managed just three matches in each format for Warwickshire.
But the 26-year-old said: “My body feels in as good nick as it has done for a long time.
“Fingers crossed ... I (can) look forward to staying on the park now.
“I hope the big injuries I’ve had are completely behind me. You’re always bowling through the odd niggle, so you just get used to it.”
He was merely a spectator too while England regained the Ashes without him last summer.
“It was obviously frustrating,” he said.
“Having to watch from the sidelines is never nice, particularly the way it went... to bring back the Ashes, you want to be a part of that.
“But that’s gone. There’s nothing you can do about it, and I’ve got to look to the future.”
Woakes expects that to begin with a bold bid by England to make up for their Test series defeat against Pakistan with limited-overs victories.
“Everyone has said the boys played reasonably well in the Test series... (but) things didn’t go their way.
“I think they learned as the series went on – and but for a couple of sessions, it could have been a totally different result.
“It was unfortunate how the series ended up, but we’re hoping to put that right in these one-dayers. It will be hard work – Pakistan are very good here – but we hope we’re up to the challenge.”
Pakistan, playing on the adjoining ground to England, also won their warm-up match yesterday – by 121 runs against Nepal.
New Zealand gave themselves a slim chance of escaping the first Test against Australia with a draw as rain intervened on day four in Brisbane.
Kane Williamson followed his first innings 140 with a 59 as play did not resume after tea with the Black Caps 142-3 – 362 runs behind but with more bad weather forecast for today.
Williamson’s dismissal late in the day leaves Australia in control at the Gabba, but New Zealand may yet hold on for a draw.
Having been set a target of 504 to win, the morning session almost got off to the worst possible start for the tourists as Tom Latham’s shot was fumbled by Joe Burns from the bowling of Mitchell Johnson.
Latham was out for 29 to a faster Marsh yorker and Williamson took the score on to 48-1 at lunch to leave 456 for victory.
Williamson hit a confident boundary in the third over after the restart and his partnership with Guptill had looked solid until the latter was dismissed for 23 when he was undone by a flatter delivery from Lyon and edged to Steven Smith.
A confident Williamson brought up his 50 with a boundary but he was out lbw on 59.