Woakes one display away from feeling comfortable at Test level, believes Cook

England's Chris Woakes pictured during a nets session at Chester-Le-Street pesterday (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire).
England's Chris Woakes pictured during a nets session at Chester-Le-Street pesterday (Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire).
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Chris Woakes will need to pull off an impersonation of Ben Stokes to win over the Durham crowd in the second Investec Test.

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

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

This 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 be out of action at least until they face Pakistan in July, Woakes will win his seventh Test cap today as the hosts bid for an unassailable 2-0 series lead.

Woakes’s last appearance came in the Centurion defeat against South Africa in January.

Cook confirmed his return ahead of the still uncapped frontline seamer Jake Ball and wasted no time backing the 27-year-old all-rounder to disprove the evidence to date of an unpromising Test bowling average of almost 64, adding a significant hint that Woakes will also be playing when this series concludes at Lord’s next month.

Cook acknowledges Stokes’s 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.

“He has the next couple of games, with Ben out. He can make selection really hard.”

Sri Lanka retain the belief they can beat England as long as they can forget their Headingley embarrassment, and avoid obsessing about the cold weather.

Coach Angelo Mathews is asking his team to “flush out of their system” any mental baggage from their innings defeat inside three days in Leeds last week.

The Sri Lanka captain describes Chester-le-Street as the coldest cricket venue he has ever visited, but is warning the tourists must not be tempted to use that as an excuse when they take the field today.

Sri Lanka had no answer to James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s brilliant bowling as they went 1-0 down, shot out for 91 and then 119 following on.

“It was an embarrassing defeat,” said Mathews. “We’ve had a few days to think about it ... (now) we just have to flush it out of our system.”