Rob Key and 10 Players Who Flattered to Deceive on the Test Stage for England
Sometimes, cricketers selected for England take to the international game like a duck to water.
They impress immediately and go on to continue that productivity, or they find their feet after a difficult start and go on to be highly impressive against the best in the world.
However, some players when selected for their national team do not manage to impress, even if they make a strong start or deliver on their promise at periodic intervals.
On the birthday of batsman Rob Key, himself one such player who flattered to deceive in Tests for England, let’s take a look at 10 players who could have done better in England colours.
They were all talented, no doubt, but they failed to live up to the hype on the biggest stage of all.
1. Mark Ramprakash
One of the most frustrating players on this list comes first, as the infinitely talented Mark Ramprakash makes an appearance.
A very capable batsman, the Surrey stalwart made just two Test centuries in a career that spanned 52 Tests in the 1990s and 2000s.
When he retired from cricket at the age of 42, fans and commentators alike could only reflect on what might have been in international cricket.
His second Test century of 133 came against the rampant 2001 Australian team, and it showed just what he was capable of.
2. Ravi Bopara
He could well find himself back in England’s Test team in the future—although it seems unlikely—but for now, Ravi Bopara can reflect on a period where he showed promise but failed to deliver.
In 13 Tests, Bopara hit three centuries, all in 2009 and all against a West Indies bowling attack that could charitably be described as weak.
Otherwise, he failed to pass 50 in any of his other 16 innings, although he made good starts in six only to get out while looking well set.
For such a talented batsman who has 120 one-day internationals under his belt, you would have expected to see a lot more from Bopara.
3. Chris Lewis
The supremely talented all-rounder Chris Lewis found himself in and out of the England squad in the 1990s, but he was never truly able to assert himself on the Test arena.
He was certainly capable, with his incisive seam bowling and aggressive yet aesthetically pleasing batting.
However, he failed to live up to the expectations as he took just three five-wicket hauls and scored one century—a defiant 117 in India in 1993.
Lewis will go down as an unfulfilled talent, who could so easily have done so much more in international cricket.
4. Richard Illingworth
It was a superb start to his Test career for Richard Illingworth, who dismissed West Indian opener Phil Simmons with his first ball in his first Test.
That could have spelled a long career for the left-armer, especially with England desperate for a consistent spin bowler in the 1990s.
He could never recapture the form that saw him dismiss Simmons, and while he played in some ODIs, Illingworth was never a force in Tests.
5. Ed Smith
He was selected for England on the strength of some brilliant county form for Kent in 2003, but Ed Smith always looked a little overawed on the biggest stage of all.
Smith started well enough with 64 on debut at Trent Bridge as England secured victory, and it looked as though he might belong at the top level.
However, after that strong start he never scored more than 16 in an innings, and he was dropped from the side after the final Test of the South Africa series at the Oval.
After such a strong start, and with such good form behind him, Smith could have done well, but he could not translate his domestic runs into anything much on the international arena.
6. Rikki Clarke
Another all-rounder who promised much but never quite delivered in Tests was Rikki Clarke, who was perhaps selected a little too early in late 2003.
He played both Tests in the tour of Bangladesh and did pretty well as he made 55 in his debut innings as England eased to victory.
However, he could not maintain that form, while his bowling was rarely used and looked a little limited.
There was no doubting Clarke’s talent, but he would have struggled against anyone other than what was a very weak Bangladeshi team.
7. Anthony McGrath
Yorkshire’s Anthony McGrath was called up to the England squad in 2003 for the Test series at home to Zimbabwe and South Africa, and he looked in good shape early on.
He hit two consecutive half-centuries against an overmatched Zimbabwe and looked like a handy replacement for the oft-injured Andrew Flintoff.
However, he was found to be a limited batsman by the incisive Proteas attack, while his medium-pace bowling never looked threatening enough at the top level.
8. Richard Dawson
In England’s search for a spinner, they landed on Richard Dawson for a time in the early 2000s, and he looked handy at times on the turning pitches of India.
He started well with 4-134 in Mohali but thereafter could not make the impact he would have wanted as India’s batsmen dealt well with him.
By the time he played his last game away to Australia—all his seven Tests came away from home—he was little more than an understudy to Ashley Giles.
9. Rob Key
The subject of our list follows, as Rob Key can reflect on a Test career that saw him make a double-century with the bat but do very little else in 15 games.
That 221 came against the beleaguered West Indies in 2004, as England romped home by 210 runs against one of the Caribbean side’s weaker bowling attacks.
Other than that monumental knock, Key passed 50 just three times, once more against the West Indians but also once apiece against Australia and South Africa.
He made starts but never capitalised on them and played his last game in international cricket less than a year after his monumental double-century.
10. Graeme Hick
Our final player who flattered to deceive is another supremely talented individual from whom much was expected—Graeme Hick.
There was no doubting his ability, and he was given almost a decade in the international arena—albeit at the whims of the selectors—to prove himself.
Unfortunately, he could only deliver six Test match centuries and an average just over 30, a poor return for a man who would dominate attacks in the County Championship for years.
His best of 178 also happened to be his first Test century, and he was overshadowed by Vinod Kambli’s monstrous 224 for India.
It was perhaps indicative of a man who was infinitely talented but often found himself overshadowed and could not quite dominate bowling as he did for Worcestershire.