Cricket

Chris Woakes has high hopes for the third Test.

England still in strong position - Chris Woakes

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England's Chris Woakes believes all the pressure is on South Africa heading to the third Test in Johannesburg.

At the halfway stage of the four-match series the tourists hold a 1-0 lead, courtesy of victory in Durban and an entertaining draw in Cape Town.

The Proteas appeared to be growing in confidence at the end of their five days at Newlands, producing their best team batting performance in over a year and pressing for an unlikely day-five victory that had seemed near-impossible after two days.

Since then they have changed captain, with the reticent Hashim Amla handing the baton to AB de Villiers, but that is an alteration that arguably makes better use of their resources.

Nevertheless Woakes thinks the deck is stacked in England's favour as the sides prepare to meet again on January 14.

"Joburg is set up nicely but I still think we're in a great position being 1-0 up," said Woakes.

"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."

Woakes added that England were unsurprised to see Amla hand the reigns to De Villiers, suggesting the process had already begun - sub-consciously, perhaps - much earlier.

"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."

Woakes is a key part of England's white-ball sides but may well be confined to a watching brief as the Test series plays to its conclusion.

He deputised for the injured James Anderson in Durban, taking match figures of one for 53, and with his team-mate now fully fit is waiting for another opportunity to arise.

He can, though, be forgiven for reflecting on his 'Sliding Doors' moment in the Boxing Day Test.

Having been entrusted with the new ball on his first appearance since August 2014, Woakes took Amla's edge in his second over only to see wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow grass a tough chance.

He would finish wicketless in the innings and had to wait until day five to celebrate the scalp of tail-ender Dane Piedt.

"Of course that was tough, but that's cricket," he said.

"You nick Amla off, take the wicket and who knows what would have happened?

"I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't have been nice to take him because maybe I could have gone on to get a couple more wickets in that spell or later in the game.

"I think I showed my frustration there and then, but no-one means to drop a catch.

"Although I didn't have the wickets in the column or a huge amount of runs I felt like I did my role pretty well for the team.

"It was great to be involved and to be part of winning the Test match was brilliant."

:: Chris Woakes was speaking on behalf of Waitrose, proud sponsor of the England Cricket teams. For more player insight, visit waitrose.com/cricket.

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