England A 530-9 Pakistan : Gloves are off as Read piles pressure on Jones

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The Independent Online

The Kent supporters at the St Lawrence Ground gave Chris Read warm applause as he completed a beautifully crafted hundred here yesterday, even though the feat placed even greater pressure on Geraint Jones, the local hero.

The debate over who should keep wicket for England polarises views like no other and the sight of Read ­ widely regarded as the best gloveman in the country ­ reaching three figures will not have been lost on Geoff Miller, the watching England selector. It was a shame Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, was not present to witness Read score an unbeaten 120 as England A reached 530 for 9 against Pakistan before bad light ended play.

But, on the other hand, it would have made little difference. Fletcher selected Jones ahead of Read at the end of England's 2004 tour of the Caribbean because he believed that the Kent stumper was the better batsman and, despite indifferent form with both bat and gloves, has been his No 1 fan ever since. Presently, there seems no chance of change.

Read, to his credit, took rejection well and returned to county cricket, where he has been prolific. In the two years since he was left out, the 27-year-old has scored more than 2,400 runs at an average of 50. During this period, Jones has made played in each of England's 29 Tests where, after making an encouraging start, he now averages 26.8.

Read said: "My batting was mooted as the only reason I was axed. In the past two and a bit years, I have done a lot of work to get my batting up to scratch.

"One of my main aims was to score more hundreds, and so that has been very pleasing. I was devastated to be dropped [and] it is frustrating to be on the outside but I am hoping to put enough pressure back on the selectors."

After losing Ravi Bopara to a loose drive, Jamie Dalrymple to a nip-backer and Robert Key to a magnificent leg-cutter in the opening nine overs of the second day, England A were in need of Read's improved batting.

The Nottinghamshire man received support from Alex Loudon, who made 51 before Read brought up his century off his 140th ball.

Mohammad Asif walking off with a sore elbow completed a disappointing day for the tourists. The wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal also has a bruised hand, but both should be fit for the first Test at Lord's on Thursday.

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