Cricket

Chris Woakes will be back for his seventh Test cap at Chester-le-Street.

Alastair Cook backs Chris Woakes to perform at Durham

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Chris Woakes must deliver the wow factor on his England Test return if he is to win over the Durham crowd in the absence of Ben Stokes.

England captain Alastair Cook is convinced the unsung Woakes has it in him, however, to prove an able deputy for the charismatic Stokes in the second Investec Test at Chester-le-Street.

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It is a fair assumption that, of the 25,000 who have bought tickets to watch England against Sri Lanka here, most did so in the hope of witnessing a prominent role over the five days from Durham's own match-winner in his home Test.

That will not happen, after Stokes underwent an operation on Monday on the knee he injured in England's innings win at Headingley.

While he will therefore be out of action at least until England face Pakistan in July, Woakes is set to win his seventh Test cap on Friday as the hosts bid for an unassailable 2-0 series lead.

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At his preview press conference, Cook confirmed Woakes' return - his last appearance came in the Centurion defeat against South Africa in January - ahead of the still uncapped frontline seamer Jake Ball.

He wasted no time either backing the 27-year-old all-rounder to disprove the evidence to date of an unpromising Test bowling average of almost 64.

Cook acknowledges Stokes' absence will be felt, but he has seen enough of Woakes to be adamant he is capable of much better than he has so far shown for his country.

"Ben has that ability to win games of cricket or change them very quickly - he has done that a few times over the past 12 months," he said.

"Certainly a lot of people want to come and watch him play, so he is going to be a big loss for us.

"But injuries are part and parcel of a side. We need to know we can play without him, and Chris has that opportunity."

Woakes sealed his place, perhaps, by taking a career-best nine-wicket haul for Warwickshire on the same day he and Ball were both named in a 12-man squad after it became clear Stokes was out.

"Bowling for Warwickshire, his character is really respected," Cook added.

"There is a lot of good stuff Chris has going for him; he just needs that performance to make him feel settled in the side and (that he) belongs in international cricket.

"I have no doubt about that, and I am really excited about him playing."

Cook's opposite number Angelo Mathews has called on his tourists, meanwhile, to forget the embarrassment of their first-Test defeat and deliver on their potential this time.

"We have to forget Headingley," he said. "That's simple, the first thing we have to do.

"This is going to be a fresh start. To stay alive in the series, we have to win."

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