Key must be called up to fill breach while in form of his life

England's main batsmen got it horribly wrong for the second match in succession. They had clearly learned none of the lessons of their dismal display against the West Indies at Trent Bridge on Sunday, when they were bowled out in 39 overs for 147. One can only wonder not just what advice comes from the dressing-room sages, but also what goes on when the selectors pick the side.

England's main batsmen got it horribly wrong for the second match in succession. They had clearly learned none of the lessons of their dismal display against the West Indies at Trent Bridge on Sunday, when they were bowled out in 39 overs for 147. One can only wonder not just what advice comes from the dressing-room sages, but also what goes on when the selectors pick the side.

The selectors have fallen back on a series of bits-and-pieces cricketers in the middle order. Paul Collingwood, as he is playing at present, Ian Blackwell, Anthony McGrath and Rikki Clarke, who played at Trent Bridge but not at the Riverside, are not quite good enough in either of the two main disciplines. A combination of three inadequate all-rounders does not add up to even one good all-rounder.

When England won the seven-nation tournament in Sharjah in 1997-98 under Adam Hollioake's captaincy, the side was full of similar players. There was the captain himself, Mark Ealham, Matthew Fleming, Dougie Brown and Neil Smith. It was a mixture that worked in Sharjah, but when the same players went out for the one-day series in the West Indies in the spring of 1998, they were pulverised.

It was then decided that the specialists who filled the Test side were the most likely to succeed in the limited-overs game.

It must be logical that those who play Test cricket well are the best bet for the shorter game. What on earth was the point of selecting Robert Key for the squad if they were not going to give him his best chance?

He has been in rare form for Kent and should have been thrown in straightaway. By holding him back as they have, he will find himself under a little bit more pressure when his chance comes. For the same reason Sajid Mahmood, Lancashire's exciting young fast bowler, should also have been thrown in at the deep end at the start of the competition.

Muddled thinking in selection seems to have infected the entire dressing-room. How could such an experienced batsman as Marcus Trescothick allow himself to be bowled playing a wild slog in the fifth over? With the ball swinging and seaming under the cloud cover, it was so important for England to be given a solid start.

A great deal obviously now depended on Michael Vaughan who, in the next over, was bowled by one which James Franklin swung back into him and went between bat and pad to bowl him. Vaughan is too good a player to be bowled through the "gate" like this.

And on it went. Geraint Jones chose the wrong ball to cut and chopped it on, Andrew Strauss played a poor hook and skied to long leg, while Blackwell never moved his feet and missed a straight one. It was abject. The selectors must now go on bended knee to Graham Thorpe.

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