England select Key to unlock Test potential
Kent opening batsman Robert Key will win his first England cap at Trent Bridge on Thursday, after he was included in England's squad for the second Test against India. The selectors have also called up the Durham fast bowler Stephen Harmison, after Simon Jones was ruled out of contention with a side strain.
Key, 23, is chosen after impressing with the England Academy last winter, and first-class success this season, in which he is averaging 44 from 12 matches. He will open the batting with Michael Vaughan, allowing Mark Butcher and Nasser Hussain to move back down to three and four respectively.
"We also considered Ian Bell and David Fulton as replacements for Graham Thorpe," said England's chairman of selectors David Graveney. "But Robert Key has been in outstanding form for Kent and his career has really kicked on this season after he attended the National Academy in Australia last winter."
Whether the 23-year-old Harmison plays could well depend on Alex Tudor's ability to prove his fitness for a five-day match, after missing the Lord's Test with tendonitis. Tudor is included in the squad, while Derbyshire's Dominic Cork is retained after missing out to Craig White in the final eleven at Lord's.
"Alex Tudor did play in a Norwich Union League match last week, and we will give him every opportunity to prove he is fully match fit in the run up to the Test Match," Graveney said. "With Simon Jones injured, we view Stephen Harmison as a like-for-like replacement who gives us the option of express pace if required.
"Our resources in the bowling department have been stretched for this match and we have had to slightly vary our policy with regard to bowlers needing to play in a four-day match before a Test match to prove their fitness."
Key's selection won immediate approval from Matthew Fleming, his captain at Kent.
"Rob's come through the under-19s and the academy system and he's part of the best opening partnership in the country with David Fulton," Fleming told Sky Sports. "He is extremely talented and he's got a bit of dog in him. He loves a fight and he loves to be up against the best bowlers in the world.
"Rob has explored every aspect of his game and he can work through any problems he has. He is the closest to being the complete batsman that I've seen this summer."
England squad: N Hussain (Essex, capt) Age: 34 Tests: 72, MP Vaughan (Yorkshire) 27/20, MA Butcher (Surrey) 29/42, RWT Key (Kent) 23/0, JP Crawley (Hampshire) 30/31, AJ Stewart (Surrey, wkt) 39/119, A Flintoff (Lancashire) 24/19, C White (Yorkshire) 31/25, AF Giles (Warwickshire) 29/16, MJ Hoggard (Yorkshire) 25/12, DG Cork (Derbyshire) 30/35, SJ Harmison (Durham) 23/0, AJ Tudor (Surrey) 24/7.