England back Robson for long haul

Sam Robson is one of three players in line for an England Test debut next week

Sam Robson is one of three players in line for an England Test debut next week

First published in National Sport News © by

England believe "tough cookie" Sam Robson, one of three potential debutants in next week's Lord's Test, is capable of opening alongside captain Alastair Cook for the foreseaable future.

Australia-born Robson joins all-rounders Chris Jordan and Moeen Ali in a previously-uncapped trio, named on Thursday morning in a 12-man squad for next week's first Investec Test against Sri Lanka.

Their promotion comes at the start of a new era under returning coach Peter Moores as he and Cook seek to establish a regime to last following last winter's 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.

National selector James Whitaker explained the reasoning behind replacing Ashes opener Michael Carberry with 24-year-old Robson, and made it clear England's premise is that his and Cook's alliance is for the long term.

"We're backing them to be our openers for the foreseeable future," said Whitaker.

"We know all about Alastair, of course. But Robson got five hundreds for the Lions in the winter, backed up by what he did last summer, (and has) a decent average of 50, 51 this year.

"He's a tough cookie, and I think he'll fit into the team really well."

Robson has established a reputation at Middlesex as a very determined and compact batsman.

"We believe he has the technique and characteristics as an opening batsman that will help us gain stability at the top of the order," added Whitaker.

"He's a natural fit; he's got a good technique and is a really hard worker."

Robson will be immediately under the microscope on his home ground, but England know instant results will not determine his longevity at international level.

Whitaker said: "When you have a partnership like Alastair and [former England captain] Andrew Strauss had, you're always going to have a little bit of conjecture, and it's going to take some time to stabilise.

"Whoever goes into a position ... very few people (can) fully make it their own straightaway."

While Robson is about to start his England career, for Plunkett next week represents a second chance seven years after the last of his nine Test caps and following his dramatic resurgence since moving from Durham to Yorkshire for the start of last season.

Whitaker is delighted for the seamer, who can also hit the ball cleanly down the order.

"Liam, what a legend!" he said.

"I'm really pleased for him. He was introduced seven or eight years ago, and now he has re-emerged at 29.

"It just shows that county cricketers always have a chance.

"He can offer us something special at 90mph, and has put in performances for Yorkshire."

Plunkett himself admits he has had to dig deep for international recognition again, having had some barren years in his mid-20s.

"I have learnt a lot about myself, a lot more about my game," he told ecb.co.uk.

"I'm obviously in the 12, but I would love to play.

"I want to do exactly what I have been doing for Yorkshire - be aggressive and play the type of cricket I have been playing.

"You learn year by year. When I was at Durham and not playing, you spiral down.

"I am excited to get this chance."

England's selectors have had to make some apparently marginal calls, to exclude Ben Stokes on fitness grounds - with only two first-class matches under his belt this summer after his self-inflicted wrist injury - but side with a return for Prior, despite the injury which has curtailed his season too.

Whitaker insists the selectors are "100 per cent confident" about Prior's readiness, and therefore prefer a recall for him - after he was dropped mid-Ashes - to a debut for rising-star Buttler.

Stokes' eventful winter included a maiden Test hundred in Perth, before his loss of temper with a Bridgetown dressing-room locker resulted in a broken wrist.

Whitaker insists that is all "water under the bridge", and that Stokes very much remains part of England's Test plans.

"He was an immense success in the Ashes and is a real big part of our future," he said.

"But just at the moment, we feel he could do with some more game time.

"I hope the public will enjoy Ben Stokes in the future when he's fully fit and has got overs under his belt.

"With only 36 overs, for a 22-year-old and back-to-back Tests, he needs some more cricket.

"(But) he's a super athlete, super guy - he will be a big part of our future."

Jordan's selection was widely-anticipated, as was Moeen's to a slightly lesser extent.

For others who have missed the cut this time, the message from Whitaker is simply that more hard work is required.

"There are a number of players on the fringes that we will look at closely," he said.

"But we want to make it hard work to get in to the team."

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