London: England’s selection gamble backfired as surprise debutants Simon Kerrigan and Chris Woakes came under fire after suffering a chastening introduction on the first day of the fifth Test against Australia on Wednesday.
With the Ashes already retained, England were willing to experiment and Kerrigan and Woakes were unexpectedly named in Alastair Cook’s team at The Oval in a bid to see if either was worthy of consideration for the trip to Australia later this year.
But on the evidence of a miserable, wicketless day for the pair, their first Test caps could easily prove their last.
Warwickshire all-rounder Woakes had come in for the dropped Jonny Bairstow, while Lancashire left-arm spinner Kerrigan, replacing the injured Tim Bresnan, was preferred to Chris Tremlett, the Surrey fast bowler who had been widely expected to return to the team on his home ground.
Neither looked comfortable in the Ashes spotlight and former England opener Geoff Boycott was scathing in his assessment as Australia closed on 307-4.
“I’ve seen Chris Woakes bowl before and, I’m sorry, he wouldn’t trouble my mum,” Boycott told Test Match Special.
“He hasn’t really done anything with the ball, and the other spinner [Kerrigan] can’t really bowl and is leaking so many runs you daren’t bowl him.”
Kerrigan has taken 164 first-class wickets for Lancashire, but his presence in the squad was due in large part to Monty Panesar’s drunken antics on a night out in Brighton that led to his recent departure from Sussex.
It was the first time England have played two spinners in a home Test since facing Australia at Cardiff 2009.
And Phil Tufnell, himself a former England left-arm spinner, admitted the experiment had been a failure.
“They’ve not allowed Kerrigan to settle and it’s easy to drop short when under pressure,” he said.
“It’s a learning curve for him but he will be disappointed not to contribute.”
Ian Botham presented Woakes and Kerrigan with their caps before the start of play, but that meeting with the legendary former England all-rounder was the duo’s only bright spot of the day.
Woakes, 24, had performed creditably in his limited overs appearances for England.
But, in the unforgiving environment of an Ashes Test, the trundling medium-pacer never threatened to trouble Australia’s batsman once he entered the fray in the 13th over.
Shane Watson was quick to take advantage of the palpable nerves from both players and it was Kerrigan who suffered most as he was blasted out of the attack in only his second over.
On a good pitch offering little turn, the 24-year-old appeared gripped by stage-fright and he conceded 10 runs, including two fours, in his first over.
Watson, who went on to make 176, crushed four more fours in Kerrigan’s next over.
Leaking 28 in just two overs convinced Cook it was already time to withdraw Kerrigan from the attack.
Woakes had fared little better, conceding six fours to Watson in a five-over spell that went for 30 runs.
Kerrigan still looked in turmoil as he announced his return just before tea with a head-high full toss that Steven Smith smashed for four.
And Woakes’ dispiriting day was summed up in the closing stages when he appeared to have trapped Watson lbw, only to see umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s out verdict reversed by the Decision Review System.
The final statistics told the full tale of woe, with Kerrigan finishing with figures of 8-0-53-0 and Woakes a slightly more economical 15-5-52-0.