Ashes 2013-14: Alastair Cook misses England's first tour game

Alastair Cook will miss England's Ashes tour opener against the Western Australia Chairman's XI with a sore back so Matt Prior captains the side.

Towering pacemen Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin and Chris Tremlett all play.

Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are rested and Monty Panesar is out with a stomach bug.

Analysis

"How times have changed. A few years ago the captain missing the opening match of an Ashes tour would have been viewed as a calamity - that it's not is an indication of the confidence this team has now assumed.

"Prior will lead England for the first time and, with Broad resting, it's an early opportunity for the tall fast bowlers to go head to head. There's one Test place for Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin and they will be judged in the same conditions.

"Gary Ballance has an early chance to show his qualities and the battle for number six between him, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes is one of the more interesting aspects of these preparation matches."

Prior told BBC Radio 5 live that Cook's absence is merely a precaution and that he is sure the opener "will be back for the next game".

"With a nice long build-up phase going into the first Test it was deemed silly to rush him back. He's just having that bit more time to loosen the back off," explained Prior.

The wicketkeeper added he expects Cook to return to action against Australia A in Hobart next week.

England then face New South Wales before the first Test, which begins in Brisbane on 21 November.

Former Australia selector Geoff Marsh told BBC Radio 5 live he was surprised to see key players rested when England only have three warm-up matches.

He said: "It surprised me a little bit because when England were here on the last Ashes tour, they had three warm-up games and they played their Test side for the first two.

"But I guess there's been a lot of cricket since then and they know what they are doing. That's up to the team management in who they select, but I would have thought it would have been a good opportunity to get stuck in in a three-day game and get that form under their belt early in the tour."

England are chasing a fourth consecutive Ashes series win, something they have not achieved in more than a century.

Ashes winners since 2000

England

2001: Australia 4-1

2002-03: Australia 4-1

2005: England 2-1

2006-07: Australia 5-0

2009: England 2-1

2010-11: England 3-1

2013: England 3-0

Cook averaged 127 with the bat during his last Ashes series in Australia in 2010-11.

His opposite number, Australia skipper Michael Clarke, has struggled with back problems for several years and has missed their current one-day series in India, but returned to action in the Sheffield Shield on Wednesday, scoring 88.

Prior says that resting players for the warm-up games is an indication of the experience of the England squad.

He added: "Broady's not injured as such but he now knows exactly what he wants from preparation leading into that first Test match.

"This team is a very experienced Test squad and these guys like Broady, Jimmy [Anderson] and Graeme Swann, they know what they need from their preparation. We've got three games and, with the management, they'll decide what's best."

England have only won one Test at the Waca, which hosts the third Test of the series, and Prior believes having a warm-up match there offers England an advantage.

He said: "What's nice now is that there are a lot of us with good experience of playing in Australia and winning in Australia - and losing at Perth, we don't have to learn again.

"Having a warm-up game here gives us a great opportunity to get it right."

England team v WA Chairman's XI: Root, Carberry, Trott, Bell, Ballance, Stokes, Prior (capt & wk), Rankin, Tremlett, Finn, Anderson.