Numbers add up only to confusion over the Read choice

Chris Read was under no illusions. "There's always a certain amount of scrutiny," he said of his return as England's keeper.

Not a certain amount. A lot, and it began in earnest at 4.35pm on Friday when Read came to the wicket because Kevin Pietersen got cramp. How did he stand up to it?

He looked nervous at the crease; so anxious to get off the mark that he swished at a short ball outside the off stump - a stroke that was a centimetre away from a disastrous duck. He got off the mark with a boundary, but it came off a clumsy inside edge. It went on to miss the leg stump, but you never can tell with inside edges.

Read scored in either boundaries or singles. He is not a stylist. He likes a cross-batted clout to midwicket, and one of these off Danish Kaneria went for six. He drove nicely into the covers but the Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, had packed them with a defensive ring which Read found difficult to pierce.

But Inzamam did Read a good turn in the half-hour before taking the new ball by giving a turn to his part-time spinners, Taufeeq Umar and Salman Butt. There were easy runs to be had and Read had his share of them. As his total edged towards his Test highest of 38, against Bangladesh, he slowed down, as if he was in the nervous 30s. (He also has two 37s in Tests.)

Read made it to 38 again, and had been in for 93 minutes in all when he played back to a ball of fairly full length from Umar Gull and was given lbw. He had faced 74 balls, equalled his highest Test score and, with Ian Bell, put on 86 runs, the highest partnership of the day. The statistics suggest a success, but they mislead.

The inelegance does not matter, but his insecurity communicates itself to the audience. Read does not make for easy spectating. The performance sends you back to question the assertion that Read's batting has improved since he was replaced by Geraint Jones in the West Indies in 2004.

This was true enough in the 2004 season, when his first-class average was 50.43, though last season it fell to 44.47. This season, however, he averages 34.69 for Nottinghamshire in first-class cricket. In the Championship he averages 27.41, having scored 329 runs in 14 innings, with one hundred and two fifties.

These statistics make his selection harder to understand, (the county grapevine suggests his fellow pros were surprised) and perhaps explain a phenom-enon noted by John Stern, editor of the Wisden Cricketer. While Jones held the job, most contributions to the mailbag suggested that he ought to be replaced by Read. Once Read was selected, a majority of the correspondents claimed this was unfair to Jones. Indecision is not final, but it is rife.

Read, who is 28 next week, is playing at Headingley because the relentless search for a keeper- batsman is still not over. This a great age for them; and all Test teams seem to have one. Look at the figures: Adam Gilchrist averages 48.8; Kumar Sanga-kkara 41.24; Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kamran Akmal and Mark Boucher are close to 30. The daddy of them all is Andy Flower (53.71), though his pre-eminence is largely forgotten.

Duncan Fletcher thought Jones belonged in the top rank, but, as his keeping improved - and there was plenty of room for that - his average has fallen away to 25.79, lower than Jack Russell, who lost his England place as a specialist keeper to Alec Stewart, who averaged a healthy 34.92 as a keeper, better even than Alan Knott (32.75).

No problem with the keeping, of course. Read had to wait precisely 57 minutes for Matthew Hoggard to adjust his radar sufficiently to find the edge of Taufeeq Umar's bat. Read dived to his left and took the ball cleanly in both hands. There was never any doubt that he would.

He looks at home behind the stumps, initiating an animated discussion with his skipper, cheering up the bowlers, clapping a good throw from the field. As the bowler runs in, he stands with his hands on his knees, going into the crouch only as the ball is delivered.

The insecurity induced by his batting is gone. Read's proper place is behind the stumps. The jury is still out on his performance in front of them.

After a couple of days, the verdict on Read in preference to Jones is the Scottish one: not proven.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?