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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions