Cook confirms Woakes call-up


Alastair Cook has confirmed Chris Woakes will replace the injured James Anderson in England's team for the first Test against South Africa, which starts in Durban on Saturday.

Anderson, England's leading wicket-taker in Test cricket with 426 scalps, has been ruled out due to a calf strain and could yet miss more of the four-Test series with the world's number-one side.

In the 33-year-old's absence, seam-bowling all-rounder Woakes will earn his fifth Test cap - more than a year after last representing his country in five-day cricket.

Speaking on Christmas Day, also his 31st birthday, Cook said: "Chris is going to play. Anyone who has seen practice over the last 24 hours will have seen we've concentrated mainly on the XI, so it's no surprise, really.

"What an opportunity it is for him to play. It gives us great depth in our batting. He's been around the side for a long time and he's got another opportunity.

"It is a bit different and, of course, you'd love Jimmy to be in the XI, but he's not and we'll cope with that.

"Obviously, Stuart [Broad] steps up again to be that leader of the attack, which I think he thrives on - he did against Australia [when Anderson was sidelined for part of the 2015 Ashes]."

Alex Hales will make his Test debut in Durban and become Cook's eighth opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss.

Cook added: "As a player, when you're picked to make a debut for England, it's a great five days. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work, not only by the person who's making their debut, but obviously all the commitment the family have made, coaches, friends, all that kind of stuff. It's a big occasion for a huge number of people.

"He [Hales] is under just as much pressure as myself, or the next 11 guys, because that's what happens when you play Test cricket, you're under pressure. But he's ready to play, he's waited his chance, earned his right to selection.

"He's been around the squad in the UAE, knows what it's about, has got a Twenty20 international hundred and a one-day hundred, so he can certainly play.

"I hope he's looking forward to the challenge of showing people what he can do rather than being another opener off the rank. He's got an opportunity to really make a name for himself."