Among all the names bandied about as England watchers – and, more pertinently, the England selectors – ponder what might be done to stop Australia flying home with the Ashes still in their possession, that of Chris Read may not even merit a mention in passing.
A decade ago, the 31-year-old Devonian was seen as England's gloveman-in-waiting but had the misfortune to duck into a Chris Cairns slower ball against New Zealand in 1999 and has never really lived it down. Ever since then, critics have been so harsh about his technique at the crease that anyone watching him for the first time might be surprised that he does not hold the bat upside down.
He won 15 Test caps over eight in-and-out years before disappearing without trace once Peter Moores sent for Matt Prior, yet he continues to score heavily for Nottinghamshire, and more often than not when required to rescue a faltering innings.
Yesterday was a case in point after Nottinghamshire, having reached 141-3, lost two wickets in the space of five balls to the Indian pace bowler Sreesanth, who had been expensive in the early overs of his debut for Warwickshire but now threatened to make the kind of impact he had wanted.
Read, though, could not have met the challenge more emphatically as he set himself to face the last ball of the over, smacking it square for four. It was the first of 17 boundaries and by the time he lost his middle stump to Naqaash Tahir in the 80th over, he had registered his third century of the season and Nottinghamshire were 366-8. He would have been out on 83 yesterday had Jonathan Trott, who has a rather better chance of making next week's line-up, not spilled a chance off Chris Woakes at first slip.
Trott's error will be forgotten should he do something with the bat today, although the weather forecast is not encouraging. He and Ian Bell could be forgiven if they were disappointed not to have been given the chance to exploit what looked like a decent pitch when their captain, Ian Westwood, won the toss and chose to field.
There was some cloud cover early, and when Tahir claimed three wickets in his first seven overs to reduce the home side to 43-3 it appeared Westwood might have had an inspired hunch that it would be a bowlers' day.
Adam Voges and Samit Patel discounted that theory, adding 98 at almost six an over. The clouds parted, the bowlers offered too many scoring opportunities and even Sreesanth's double strike could not arrest the flow of runs as Read led partnerships of 83 with Patel followed by 84 with Mark Ealham and 58 with Andre Adams as Nottinghamshire powered to 388 all out and four batting points.
Ashes watch: The contenders
*Heading for the Oval.
Rob Key (Kent): Fell short of a headline-grabbing century but his 90 at Northampton was timely as England weigh up who might bolster their batting.
Alastair Cook (Essex): Caught day-dreaming – perhaps because his place is secure – at second slip when dropping two chances.
*Waiting by the phone
Ravi Bopara (Essex): Took a sharp catch at cover and bowled five modest overs. Big test comes today.
Ian Bell (Warwicks): Showed safe hands to take a catch at backward point.
Jonathan Trott (Warwicks): Also confined to fielding duties, where he perhaps could have been a little more tuned in, given that he dropped a fairly simple chance in the slips that would have denied Chris Read a century.
Michael Carberry (Hants): Caught at gully for 23 against Yorkshire but with four 100s in his last seven Championship innings is an outside bet.
*Staying at home
Joe Denly (Kent): Missed his opportunity at Northampton, caught at second slip off left-arm seamer David Lucas for 15.
Stephen Moore (Worcs): The opener fell leg before to Robin Martin-Jenkins for 28 at Hove.
Owais Shah (Middlesex): A 16-ball stay at Lord's before he fell lbw playing around his left leg did nothing for his chances of heading south of the river.Reuse content