Chris Woakes believes England are well placed to beat South Africa and begin 2016 with the notable scalp of the world’s top-ranked Test team in their own backyard.
England have controlled the majority of the first two Tests, highlighted by a thumping 241-run win in Durban, and head to Johannesburg tomorrow knowing they can wrap up the series when the third Test starts on Thursday.
There are signs, however, that the Proteas began to rediscover their best at Newlands.
After being battered by Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow’s world-record sixth-wicket stand they turned the course of the most so significantly that they were pushing for the most unlikely of wins on the final day.
Hashim Amla’s double-century was central to that, to confirm his anticipated return to form, while Temba Bavuma’s historic century capped the Proteas’ best batting performance in over a year.
The hosts could also welcome back Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott at the Wanderers, where there will be added focus as AB de Villiers takes over the captaincy following Amla’s decision to stand down from the post immediately after the Cape Town draw.
De Villiers will immediately be under pressure to get a result for his country and Woakes thinks England are poised to make full use of that.
“Joburg is set up nicely but I still think we’re in a great position being 1-0 up,” said Woakes, speaking in association with team sponsors Waitrose.
“They have to win both to win this series. As long as we play the kind of cricket we have been so far, then fingers crossed we can’t lose the series
“Obviously that’s possible but the way we’ve been playing I can’t see it happening.
“Winning the toss would be nice because if we start well in Joburg it’s a long way back for the South Africans.”
Good morning with @waitrose answering fans questions, talking about SA Tour & looking forward to ODI/T20 series. pic.twitter.com/XONhWDM1UQ
— Chris Woakes (@chriswoakes) January 9, 2016
Woakes was unsurprised to hear about Amla’s decision to stand down as captain – an announcement that shocked most people if not at least because of its timing.
The Warwarkshire all-rounder played in the series-opening win at Durban where he said De Villiers was taking a lead role in on-field decisions.
For that reason Woakes suspects South Africa will be hardly effected by the change of captain mid-series.
“It’s not a surprise that he’s stepped down, that’s the best way to put it,” said Woakes, speaking in association with team sponsors Waitrose.
“When I was on the field in Durban you could feel Amla probably wasn’t leading the side as much as a normal captain does, as much as Cooky (Alastair Cook) for instance.
“It felt like AB was having an input anyway. So with Amla stepping down I’m not sure how much of a huge difference that will make to them.”
:: Chris Woakes was speaking on behalf of Waitrose, proud sponsor of the England Cricket teams. For more player insight, visit waitrose.com/cricket.