His decision gave left-handed opener Cook an early chance in this match to score the 20 runs he needed to become the first Englishman and only 12th player overall to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket.
However, overcast conditions at north-east county Durham’s headquarters offered the prospect of assistance for Sri Lanka’s pace attack.
England made one enforced change to the side that won the first Test of this three-match series by an innings and 88 runs at Headingley last week.
Chris Woakes replaced Ben Stokes after the all-rounder was ruled out of this match at his Durham home ground with a knee injury suffered at Headingley.
Sri Lanka made two changes, with Suranga Lakmal replacing injured fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera.
Meanwhile seam bowling all-rounder Dasun Chanaka, despite taking three for 46 on Test debut at Headingley, was dropped and replaced by Milinda Siriwardana, a spin-bowling all-rounder.
Pitch conditions: Brown strip with touch of green should be good to bat on but grey skies above Riverside could aid swing movement.
England: Alastair Cook (capt), Alex Hales, Nick Compton, Joe Root, James Vince, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal (wkt), Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Milinda Siriwardana, Rangana Herath, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal