Chris Woakes: The unhappy tourist

England deciding on making the least effective touring bowler in the world the lead of the attack.

Chris Woakes started West Indies' chase by delivering the first ball down the legside. A brand new Dukes ball was in his hand, and he was going up against one of the world's most frail batting lineups. And he started with a gimme. In the second over, he bowled another.

CricViz said he bowled ten in his first eleven overs in the first innings. It's a lot of legside rubbish from someone this accurate.

This wasn't a foreign ball, this wasn't a strong batting lineup, and this wasn't a good performance from Woakes. And we've seen all this before. In fact, last ten years, there isn't a test bowler who's had his kind of opportunity and not done better.

Chris Woakes is the worst high usage bowler away from home. And almost all the others near him are finger spinners. Woakes is the worst bowler in the world away from home.

His home numbers wouldn't even live in the same part of town as his away. At home he completely dominates batters, away from home, he is their greatest friend.

And none of this is new, England have shielded him from playing away from home.

Until they lost the last Ashes and suddenly decided to discard James Anderson and Stuart Broad at least in part because they didn't get as many wickets away as they would like. And they gave the ball to the man who gets less than anyone to lead this new attack.

The main reason is how much Chris Woakes relies on English conditions to move the ball laterally. He's more of a swing bowler, but he gets the ball to seam around in England. A third of that disappears when he travels.

But the bigger drop is with the swing.

He loses half his swing when jumping on a plane. That is hard to overcome. If you are a swing bowler like Woakes, that is like losing a leg overseas. Obviously some bowlers have worked this out before, but he hasn't. The proof is in the numbers.

I still don't believe that Chris Woakes is the worst overseas bowler in the world, but you know, he's making it hard to believe he isn't. At a certain point, we need to understand that if that's the case, then it's probably the lack of swing.

And you might be thinking of Jimmy Anderson right now because he's even more of a swing bowler than Woakes. And, he is. He moves the ball a lot more in the air than his permanent understudy does. But, because of that, he also still swings it when travelling.

This is why Anderson may be nullified when travelling, but he's not neutralised.

The swing and seam data all come from CricViz, who also tracked pace. Woakes has tried to bowl quicker when overseas to overcome the lack of lateral movement. But his average speed is still only marginally improved, to 134.

This is quicker than at home, but it's not enough to beat most batters unless you can match it with something going sideways.

And pace is one reason why I like Woakes as a bowler. When he first came into Tests, it was clear he was too slow. He looked like a third change bowler who would have to be real good with the bat to help his team. But he went off and put on speed, and not many bowlers in the world have done that. But he didn't turn himself into a tearaway, and that good wrist position was still his most important asset.

What Woakes needs more than anything else is a brand new ball. The bigger problem with that is that most England bowlers outside of Mark Wood need the same. English bowlers are new nut specialists in Tests because they have been chosen because of all the wickets they get with the dukes on seam friendly pitches. They don't get them all with the new ball, but the Dukes moves for so long in the air that even bowling from overs 20-50 can feel like a new ball at times.

And while it's easy to say that Woakes hates the kookaburra, he loves the white one. In the last five years, he has been in the top two bowlers in terms of powerplay averages.

He dominates with the new white kookaburra for England. And if you're thinking, well, sure, he's pretty good when he has a new white ball in English conditions, but what about without the grey clouds.

Well, he's still good. He slips from second to fourth. Woakes has no problem with a white kookaburra in his hand. When you look up the numbers of Test bowlers in the first ten, Woakes is not quite as strong, but he's undoubtedly one of the better new ball bowlers in Test cricket as well.

Woakes is a fantastic new ball bowler in either format.  But when you look at his first ten overs record by location, in the UK he is unplayable.

In the rest of the world's he's way worse than average. The red kookaburra haunts him even when England allow him to bowl with it.

It gets worse though. As you might have noticed ten overs is a pretty small amount of your average Test innings. So let's look at overs 10-80 for England versus the world.

You can see just how much that English ball moves for him all innings through, and how much the kookaburra does not. His record is half as good, just as he swings it half as much.

The only way for Woakes to get good at this was going to be prolonged exposure to the kookaburra ball on the road. But how could he get that when Broad and Anderson needed it? England had three bowlers who all were going to be at their best when taking it, and someone had to miss out. Sometimes that was Broad, occasionally Anderson was rested, but mostly that was Woakes. For about about two years from late 2015,  England used him a lot on the road, but he didn't take wickets at the rate they wanted.

That means that since 2018 Woakes has travelled as a tourist, not a bowler.

Considering his batting, an the flexibility he gives an English line up. You can tell just how bad he has been with the ball not to get games.

This is his average for each away Tests.

You can see why they gave up, in that early period, he basically only had two good Tests.  Later - when they started using him on surfaces that suited him - he played one match a year and took lots of wickets. But there are only so many times he can bowl on surfaces that suit, and with the new ball considering Broad and Anderson are around.

It's clear from these numbers that he has struggled away. But this is still just a couple of bad series, and then he only got taken off the shelf when everything was in his favour. Meaning the later away Tests he isn't learning as much.

It's clear after his struggles in 16 and 17 he needed to work it out by bowling a lot overseas, instead he barely did.

Woakes can't swing the ball outside the UK, but that doesn't mean it should be a death sentence. Plenty of bowlers have been successful without hooping outswingers, but Woakes never developed those skills. But England couldn't play him away because they had two other seam bowlers of roughly the same pace and skillsets. So Woakes' bad overseas form has been sitting on a shelf ever since.

And to make it all worse, then England suddenly set him up to lead the attack, with more pressure on him than he had ever had. At the same time, Antigua put up a surface that should be a Chris Woakes killer. He hadn't been bowling on these surfaces for years, and suddenly not only does he have to, but without 1000 wickets of advice, and now he is the leader of the attack, it makes sense that he would struggle.

And on top of that, he wasted the new ball. He fired it down the leg side, on a pitch that was about as new ball dependent as any you'll find.

It's easy to blame Woakes for bowling poorly in this match, but he's been on overseas mothballs balls since 2017, usually bowls with Test legends, and suddenly had to lead a new attack without arguably its four best seam options.

Chris Woakes bowled poorly away from home, but not nearly as poorly as England have handled this.