ENGLAND have picked three uncapped players in the first Test squad of their new era, under new coach Peter Moores.
Opener Sam Robson and all-rounders Chris Jordan and Moeen Ali are in line for debuts at Lord’s against Sri Lanka next week in a 12-man squad showing six changes from the team which lost England’s last Test in Sydney to conclude their miserable Ashes whitewash.
There is also room for seamer Liam Plunkett – who last played Test cricket seven years ago – and another pace option in Chris Woakes. But Jos Buttler will not be making a Test debut yet, with Matt Prior fit after an Achilles injury to return as wicketkeeper.
The start of Sydney-born Robson’s Test career on his home ground as a Middlesex batsman, will be especially notable. The 24-year-old was outstanding for England Lions in Australia and Sri Lanka last winter and the selectors appear to have been unanimous in choosing him as captain Alastair Cook’s new opening partner in place of Michael Carberry.
Selector James Whitaker said: “The winter form [showed] his excellence – five hundreds there, and he showed some great characteristics. He has a great attitude and is very fit, focused and disciplined – all the attributes Peter and Alastair want.”
Plunkett, 29, has enjoyed a dramatic resurgence since moving from Durham to Yorkshire last year. He won the last of his nine Test caps at the start of Moores’ first stint as coach against West Indies at Old Trafford in June 2007.
The selectors have been particularly impressed by Plunkett’s pace so far this season and Whitaker added: “He has shown all the hallmarks of a spearhead fast bowler.
“He’s had some really quick spells, 90mph. One of his quickest was at Lord’s, a few weeks ago, so he’ll be confident there.”
Moeen is selected in England’s middle order, but also as an off-spinner.
Worcestershire’s batting all-rounder has won nine limited-overs caps in recent months.
He said: “I loved my time for England during the winter, and everyone made me feel so welcome and part of the squad.
“I thought the previous winter that the chance might have passed me by to play for England. But I really worked hard on my game. This winter’s experience has given me the hunger to want to play more international cricket, and obviously the next step is Test cricket.
“I’ve been concentrating on playing for Worcestershire, who I love playing for, but to now be selected for the Test squad is fantastic news.”
While Moeen breaks new ground, Prior is given the chance to restate his case at the highest level having been dropped for the final two Ashes Tests and then recovering from an Achilles injury in the nick of time.
England have no doubts that Prior is fully fit again. Whitaker said: “That is our number one priority, in selection criteria, someone being 100 per cent fit and we’re very confident Matt is.
“He’s come back, really gunning to get his place back, and we believe now he can be a part of that core group of senior players that can drive this team forward for the next two or three years.
“He is just the sort of character we want in that team.”
Prior has won his race against time to be fit, but Ben Stokes has not.
England have chosen Woakes instead of the Durham all-rounder, whose eventful winter included a maiden Test century in Perth but then a self-inflicted broken wrist when he lost his temper with a Bridgetown dressing-room locker after making a golden duck.
He missed the start of the summer because of that injury, and has since been able to play only two first-class matches so far.
But Whitaker added: “Ben Stokes is very much part of England’s future.
“There’s going to be a core group of players emerging, of which Ben will be one.
“Just at the moment, we feel – with only 36 or so overs under his belt – we would like to see a few more, and get a bit more stamina into his body.
“Of course, he’s disappointed but he understands that.
“He will be back soon, I’m sure.”
Alastair Cook (captain)