Durban, Dec 25 (IANS) England captain Alastair Cook has backed all-rounder Chris Woakes to shine when the first Test against South Africa starts here on Boxing Day (December 26). Speaking to the press on his 31st birthday, Cook confirmed on Friday that Woakes would win a fifth Test cap after pacer James Anderson was ruled out with a calf problem. Anderson will miss the first Test, but it is hoped that England’s leading Test wicket-taker will be fit for the second match in Cape Town.
Woakes’ pace and control were impressive during the limited-overs campaign in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the all-rounder continued in a similar vein at the start of the tour to earn a first Test recall since August 2014. Stuart Broad will lead the attack in the absence of Anderson, with Steven Finn, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali lining up alongside Woakes.
“I think anyone who’s seen practice over the last 24 hours will have seen we’ve concentrated mainly on the 11 so it’s no surprise really,” Cook said of the 26-year-old Woakes’ selection. “What an opportunity it is for him to play. It gives us great depth in our batting and he’s been around the side for a long time and now he’s got an opportunity.” Anderson, 33, has been troubled by a right calf strain that has lingered since the start of the trip and Cook added: “Of course it’s a huge loss. When you take out (426) wickets and 110 games of experience it’s going to be a big loss, of course, it is. But we can’t do anything about that.