England v Sri Lanka: Alastair Cook quick to defend decision to leave popular pair out of side

Captain explains omission of success stories Stokes and Buttler for first Test

lord's

Alastair Cook, the England captain, has offered impassioned support for a team selection which has been widely derided. With England urgently attempting to promote the spirit of a new era with fresh values, the selectors chose to omit the country's two most exciting players for the first Test against Sri Lanka which starts here on Thursday.

Neither Jos Buttler, scorer of England's most recent one-day hundred, nor Ben Stokes, who compiled the team's only Test hundred of an agonising Ashes tour – Australians provided 10 – was considered to be ready. There are likely to be three new caps but if James Whitaker, the new national selector, and his panel thought that would be sufficient to placate critics, they were wrong.

Unless England play bright, successful cricket, it threatens to overshadow the presence in a Test match for the first time of Sam Robson, Moeen Ali and Chris Jordan. Cook, who had considerable influence at the selection meeting last week, could only put his side of the argument in the cramped film theatre at this ground where captains traditionally provide their opinions.

It was all he could do but it ignored the dramatic effect that Buttler and Stokes have had on a public which has seen England lose perpetually since last summer. Moeen will bat at six, Stokes' position in Australia, Matt Prior has been recalled to keep wicket after being dropped on that tour.

Cook was already fielding questions about the potential feisty nature of the series following the run-out of Buttler, while backing up in the final one-day international. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that issue, England have not made many friends lately at home or abroad.

But the country is ready for the resumption of Test cricket. The ground is sold out for the first three days. If there is much of the match left, the fourth will be too.

Get Adobe Flash player 

"Stokesy wasn't quite ready," said Cook. "He's only bowled 30-odd overs and when he bowled he would have been a bit rusty. He's gone for four and a half, almost five, runs an over, so when you're playing an all-seam attack you've got to be very confident about all the bowlers.

"We've got no doubt how good Ben Stokes will be for England but unfortunately with that injury he received he hasn't played much cricket and it's a big ask to come back quickly from something like that at this stage of his development as a player."

Stokes, infamously, was injured on the West Indies limited-overs tour in March when he broke his hand hitting a dressing-room locker to express his annoyance at his dismissal. There is no suggestion that his omission is punishment for such crassness, but in a brief Test career Stokes has already shown he has a taste for the big time.

When emergency measures meant he had to be called up to make his debut in the second Test at Adelaide last winter, he had only bowled 13 first-class overs on the tour, so it did not stop them then. In his second Test he made an imposing 120 and in his fourth at Sydney, England's most recent, he took 6 for 99 in Australia's first innings.

No one should suggest that Stokes is the finished article but his talent is obvious. Given his precocious start, the only way to ensure that he advances in Test cricket – with an Ashes series next summer – is to play it more.

Buttler has exercised observers still more. Prior has played 75 Tests and at his peak was a vintage performer. But when he started he was well short of the necessary class for an international keeper, had a dreadful 2013 and in Buttler there is the feeling that England have a genius on their hands. His 121 from 74 balls in the one-day international at Lord's 12 days ago took the breath away.

Cook said: "Jos is obviously a very exciting talent as anyone who saw that innings here knows. He's done it a few times now in his one-day career, and I've no doubt he's an exceptional talent who will play Test cricket for England.

"But we've got a guy in Matt Prior who averages over 40 in his Test career, he's an outstanding batsman who had a tough six months," he added. "I'm backing his ability at the moment and the quality we know he's got."

Lord's preview: First Test details

Probable teams:

England A N Cook (capt), S D Robson, G S Ballance, I R Bell, J E Root, M M Ali, M J Prior (wkt), L E Plunkett, C J Jordan, S C J Broad, J M Anderson

Sri Lanka A D Mathews (capt), J K Silva, F D M Karunaratne, K C Sangakkara, D P M D Jayawardene, H D R L Thirimanne, H A P W Jayawardene (wkt), K M D N Kulasekara, K T G D Prasad, H M R K B Herath, R M S Eranga

Umpires P Reiffel (Aus) & B Bowden (NZ)

Pitch report Grass on it yesterday suggests it may offer movement but Lord's always offers surfaces that last, not swayed by the wishes of combatants. Any pace will make it difficult for the tourists.

Odds England 11/10. Draw 2/1. Sri Lanka 3/1

Television Sky Sports 2, 10am-7pm. (Highlights Channel 5, 7pm)

Weather Warm and sunny with late cloud possible. Maximum temperature: 25C

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform