On a day their ace paceman James Anderson was not at his best, Woakes (4/55 from 15 overs) and Ollie Robinson shared seven wickets in between them to give the hosts the upper hand.
At close, England trailed India by 138 runs with 7 wickets remaining.
“It was great to be back in whites, winning the toss, and bowling India out for 191 was very pleasing,” the 32-year-old, who last played a Test against Pakistan in August 2020, told reporters.
It was a mix of bad luck and management decisions, that the Warwickshire paceman had to sit out for more than a year.
First, he missed the Test series in Sri Lanka after he was found to be in close contact with Moeen Ali who had tested positive for COVID-19.
He went on to miss the first two Tests in India because he did not feature in Sri Lanka and then he was sent home for a rest period as per England’s rotation policy to tackle the bubble fatigue.
Woakes then met with a freak accident at home sustaining a heel injury that ruled him out of the first three Tests.
“I was desperate to play cricket. It’s been a bit tricky coming back from a heel injury. I was watching from home, always wanting to be a part of the series.
“It’s been a weird year, been up and down, caught in isolation then in summer picked up a niggle. It was worth the wait and I really enjoyed it,” Woakes, who replaced left-arm pacer Sam Curran, said.
Bowling with the red ball after a long time, Woakes said he stuck to the basics.
“Not having played a huge amount of red ball, I was actually focused on doing what I do well which obviously is taking the ball away from the right hander and trying to get some movement there. Thankfully the surface responded well.”
While England dominated for the most part, India fought back in the last hour with Jasprit Bumrah snapping two quick wickets before Umesh Yadav claimed the precious wicket of the in-form Joe Root.
“Obviously we wouldn’t have liked to lose three tonight, including that of Joe. It was a good wicket. Hopefully we will bat well tomorrow and get past their score. Tomorrow is going to be a big day for us,” he said.
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