DURHAM’S Ben Stokes has been given the chance to cement his place in the England cricket team after Kevin Pietersen was rested for the one-day series with India.
Stokes made his international debut in Ireland on Thursday, alongside club-mate Scott Borthwick.
However, with the Three Lions resting almost all their leading Test players, it was little more than a glorified Lions team.
This, though, is the real thing against the reigning 50 and 20-over champions.
The selectors have made space for the 20-year-old by resting Pietersen – a regular in all three forms of the game.
Ian Bell is likely to fill his number four spot, with Stokes set to bat at six.
National selector Geoff Miller explained: “The decision to omit Kevin Pietersen from the one-day squad is in line with our policy of sensibly managing player workloads and will give the opportunity to another batsmen to test himself batting at number four.”
There are two uncapped players in the squad – Nottinghamshire opener Alex Hales and Somerset’s middle-order batsman Jos Buttler, both of whom were overlooked for the trip to Ireland – the squad for which was only picked seven days ago.
James Taylor, the top-order batsman widely regarded as the next in line at Test level and captain of the Lions, has been dropped after also making his debut in Clontarf.
Stokes made just three on Thursday.
Miller said: “Across both squads we believe we have selected an exciting blend of experienced international performers along with exciting young players with a great deal of talent.
“We will need to play a high-quality brand of limited-overs cricket against the world champions India.
“We are very excited to have included bright young players in the form of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales, all of whom have proved themselves domestically and will now be looking to successfully take the step up to international level.”
Born in New Zealand, but raised in Cockermouth when his father Jed became Workington’s rugby league coach, Stokes’ emergence has caused great excitement on the county circuit.
His powerful hitting is Stokes’ biggest asset.
In compiling a Championship century against Lancashire earlier this season he twice cleared the Chester-le-Street pavilion – something only Pietersen had achieved since it was built.
This season, his second on the county circuit, has seen him continue his progress.
He made his maiden one-day century (150 against Warwickshire) and a first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket (at Hampshire in April).
His progress stalled in May, when he dislocated his finger fielding against Lancashire on the eve of the Twenty20 Cup.
He has played one Championship match since – it would have been more were it not for international call-ups, mainly at Lions level – and has not bowled.
He is unlikely to play again for the county this season, unless they reach the end-of-season CB40 final.
Stokes averages 48 in this season’s Championship, and 51 in the 40-over competition. Sussex all-rounder Luke Wright has been overlooked after much time on the periphery of the side, while Twenty20 opener Michael Lumb misses out through injury. England have a one-off Twenty20 international to get out of the way first, but Stokes is set to begin his England career in earnest in Saturday’s 50-over game at Chester-le-Street, the first of a five-match series.
Stuart Broad will captain the Twenty20 side and Alistair Cook resumes control of the 50-over outfit after Eoin Morgan’s one-match stint in charge.
Meanwhile, Liam Plunkett has resisted Warwickshire’s advances to sign a new two-year contract with Durham.
The 26-year-old, who made his county debut in 2003 and his international bow two years later, has had a frustrating 2011.
It started well, called up as a reserve for England’s injury-ravaged one-day leg of the tour of Australia. He scored his maiden first-class century in the season’s opener against Durham University.
However, after injuring a quad muscle in his second Championship game, he has been unable to get back in.
He has now lost his place in the one-day unit, after going through matches without bowling.