Glove rivals Read and Jones relying on continuity

England have changed wicketkeepers but the selection policy gives hope to both players. Angus Fraser explains
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The Independent Online

Their moods will have differed hugely as they made their way to work yesterday but Chris Read and Geraint Jones can each take comfort from the events of this week. In selecting Read ahead of Jones for tomorrow's third Test against Pakistan, England have given the Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper his third, and probably final, chance to prove that he can become an international cricketer.

Over the coming days Read's glovework will receive knowing nods from those who believe the wicketkeeping position should be occupied by a specialist, but his batting will be under immense scrutiny once England's fifth wicket falls and he walks out to take guard. Jones was dropped for not scoring enough runs, and it is this commodity Read requires.

The omission of Jones does not signify that his time with England has come to an end. Far from it. Jones is not the first England player to be given a timely kick up the backside by the selectors and he will not be the last. Continuity has become a buzzword within the England set-up since Duncan Fletcher took charge as coach prior to the 1999-2000 tour of South Africa, but he and his fellow selectors have not shied away from making tough and controversial decisions. At times it has appeared harder to get dropped from than picked for the England team, but the close unit has never become a closed shop.

Read, if the current protocol continues to be followed, will be given a fair run and both he and Jones can take reassurance from the fact that the talents of Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard were once doubted yet they returned to become Ashes-winning heroes.

Flintoff was the first of the triumvirate to be told that he needed to get his finger out. In 2000, after nine Tests, a back injury ruled him out of the second Test against the West Indies but concerns over his weight, attitude and commitment kept him out of the Test side for 18 months.

Flintoff was recalled for the first Test against India in Mohali when Craig White, the Yorkshire all-rounder, admitted he was struggling to bowl at 85-90mph, the speed Fletcher expects from his pacemen. He has since fulfilled his potential and become one of cricket's biggest names.

Harmison's Test career had teething problems too. It was easy to see that Harmison had the potential to become of the world's best fast bowlers when he made his Test debut against India in 2002. Since then very few have doubted his ability, but there was a stage when the 27-year-old's commitment was questioned, even by England players.

Matters came to a head during the summer of 2003 when he was dropped for the fourth Test against South Africa. Harmison returned for the final Test but was not awarded a lucrative central contract at the end of the season. This led to acrimony on the pre-Christmas tours of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, from which Harmison returned home early with a back injury. Senior England players once again questioned his desire.

There were even suggestions that Harmison would not be picked for the spring tour of the Caribbean. But he was, and after taking 7 for 12 against the West Indies in Jamaica he has led England's attack.

Hoggard's period of doubt came on the tour to Sri Lanka that Harmison missed. After taking a solitary wicket in Galle the 29-year-old was dropped for the final two matches of the series. Hoggard openly admits that he thought he would be overlooked for the post-Christmas tour of the West Indies but he made the squad and has performed with distinction since.

A second chance has not been offered to many players who have played for England during Fletcher's reign. Mark Butcher, Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick played several Test matches yet each was culled when deemed surplus. There are others - Chris Adams, James Ormond, Gavin Hamilton, Darren Maddy, Ian Ward and Usman Afzaal, to name but six - who played only a handful of games before being deemed not good enough.

Dropped zone: Players who turned hot in the cold

Stephen Harmison

Prior to omission: Tests 10. Wickets 28. Ave 36.79.

Since recall: Tests 33. Wickets 146. Ave 26.01.

Overall: 43; 174; 27.74.

Andrew Flintoff

Prior to omission: Tests 9. Runs 233. Ave 16.64.

Wickets 7. Ave 55.00.

Since recall: Tests 53. Runs 2,894. Ave 35.78.

Wickets 179. Ave 30.40.

Overall: Tests 62. Runs 3,127 Ave 32.91.

Wickets 186. Ave 31.32.

Matthew Hoggard

Prior to omission: Tests 22. Wickets 79. Ave 32.99.

Since recall: Tests 34. Wickets 138. Ave 27.23. Overall: 56; 217; 29.32.

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