England Cricket

Key Left In Wilderness as England Change Squad for Last Ashes Test

CANTERBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 28:  Rob Key of Kent Hits out during the tour match between Kent and New Zealand at St Lawrence Ground on April 28, 2008 in Canterbury, England.  (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Sam DodginContributor IAugust 17, 2009

I am not, by nature, an angry man.

I shy away from violence and prefer to settle disagreements over a nice pint rather than with shouting and fists. But shouting is what I was reduced to after reading the squad selected by England ahead of the decisive Ashes test at the Oval.

With the series tied at one-all heading into the final Test match, and after the debacle of England's defeat at Headingley, changes were expected to the England side. Changes have been made. But for my money, they are the wrong ones.

It was obvious for all to see that Ravi Bopara had fallen woefully out of form during this series, averaging just 15.00, with 105 runs coming from seven innings and a paltry high score of 35. James Anderson has a higher average in the series and a similar highest score (29).

The solution proffered by the England selectors was the dropping of Bopara and his replacement with Warwickshire's Jonathan Trott. Trott has really played his way into the England squad with a first class average approaching 100 this season and it is not his inclusion that I take issue with.

It is the exclusion of Rob Key that grinds my gears and the reason is simple. The dropping of Bopara and calling up of Trott has meant a move up the order for Ian Bell, dropped for his shortness of form earlier this year, playing in the same position.

Bell is a fine player, the sort who has the ability to hit the kind of beautiful cover drive that has purists purring. But the fact of the matter is that he is not and never has been a No. 3. He lacks the mental toughness to excel in this position and was shown up by Glenn McGrath in the 2005 series.

Key's inclusion in the squad would have gone some way to solve this. England's best solution to the No. 3 problem in the short term would have been to pick an opener and play him there. Key opens for Kent and, after a poor start to the season, has hit a fairly rich vein of form. He also exhibits the kind of thick skin and mental toughness needed to play at three.

England's problem at three has been exacerbated by a lack of quality opening from Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss. They have only once passed 100 for the first wicket in this series and this puts extra pressure on the man at three. Pressure that Bell has shown before that he can not cope with.

The squad England have selected does not strike fear into the Australians and nor should it. They have missed a trick by leaving Key out. Time will tell whether or not it's a fatal decision. 

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