Cricket ace Woakes: It was a Villa thriller at the Ashes!
Chris Woakes says he was more than aware of the claret and blue cricket connection as he and Ian Bell went all-out to beat Australia at the Oval in the fifth Ashes test.
In the final thrilling session, Villa fans Woakes and Bell were in the middle chasing down the Aussies total in a bid to win 4-0.
Bad light eventually stopped play but Woakes says it was a treasured moment to be representing his country alongside fellow Bear and Villan Bell.
Woakes, of course, was making his debut while Bell is a stalwart of the England team.
But the all-rounder says he was relaxed as the runs built-up in front of an expectant crowd.
He said: "It was all pretty strange and surreal to be honest. To be given the call to be in the squad after missing out on the first four tests was a nice touch.
"I still felt I wouldn't make the final XI. But to make your debut in an Ashes test was so, so special.
"It's only just sunk in.
"I was excited to be involved, around the squad and around the lads. The fact we were 3-0 up and the Ashes were in the bag, there was a feelgood factor in camp, definitely.
"But then the nerves kicked-in when I found out I was in the team to play.
"But I had that excitement too. You always strive to play for your country and I was about to achieve that so there was masses of pride. Test matches are the pinnacle so it was a thrill.
"People would think that heading out into the middle in that final session would be terrifying. But it was the most relaxed I was all week. It's a big strange I suppose.
"But I'd been in that sort of situation many times for Warwickshire. I felt at ease with that situation.
"However, bowling my first over and going out to bat in the first innings were more nerve-wracking.
"That final session was great. I felt really 'on it' to go out and try to win the test match for the boys. I was fine.
"It was a shame we didn't get over the line and the light played its part.
"But it was great to be involved and out there in that final session with Belly. I was really enjoying myself out there.
"I was very aware of the Villa connection in the middle on that final session. It's always great to be around Belly and play with him. He's a good pal.
"That face in the middle you're used to - and get on with - is always helpful.
"It was great to be out there with a fellow Bear and Villan. We were enjoying ourselves out there. It was going well until the mix-up and Belly got run-out.
"I realise the fact that two Villa fans playing for England trying to beat Australia is a big thing for the supporters. I was on Twitter after the game, obviously and I was just overwhelmed by the support of the claret and blue faithful.
"The Villa family appreciated two of their own were chasing down a total to win a test match for England. That was huge.
"The amount of messages I received were amazing. I appreciated it."
After the game, Woakes and Bell took turns at wearing the new Villa shirt in the dressing room while holding the famous Urn.
It was a special moment for both men.
He continued: "Belly told me there was a shirt on its way down to the dressing room so to get the shirt on with the Urn in hand was just brilliant.
"Me and Belly love the Villa - it's in our blood. To have that recognition of the club in the dressing room was just brilliant.
"We're always talking about the Villa. It's never far from our minds.
"That Saturday, we were playing Liverpool, and the day was lost to rain so we were back in the hotel at 5pm. We sat in the bar and watched the game.
"It was great to see the boys in claret and blue. They played fantastically in the second half.
"There's always banter in the dressing room. Players in there support different teams so it's good that there's both Belly and I in there pushing the Villa.
"Trotty is Spurs. Swanny is Newcastle. Broady is a Notts Forest supporter. There are a few different teams knocking around.
"We are always sticking together and pushing the Villa! We can shove our chests out a bit more now with Paul Lambert in charge.
"We're building a bright future. I love the way Paul Lambert is going about his business. He's bought in these young hungry players. The future is great.
"The thing I love about life at Villa at the moment is the quality of the football - it's superb.
"We knock the ball around and we're good to watch. It's really pleasing. We're heading in the right direction, definitely.
"It would be nice to get a cup run. We've got a good history in that.
"I went to the Rotherham game. It was good to see us put three past the Millers. Every game is a banana skin. So it was a good performance. Hopefully we can go well in the league too."
But which Villa player would make an ace cricketer?
He added: "Christian Benteke would be frightening! I wouldn't want him running down and throwing the ball down my neck!"
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