'Surprised' Read eager to score on return for England

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The Independent Online

It is hard to imagine when Chris Read was more surprised: when he was dropped from the England Test team after helping the side win their first series in the West Indies for 37 years in April 2004 or when he heard of his selection for the third Test against Pakistan, which starts tomorrow.

"When someone [Geraint Jones] has played 31 consecutive Test matches for his country you tend to think they are pretty much part of the furniture," said Read, after yesterday's rain-interrupted practice session at Headingley.

"OK, Geraint had not scored the volume of runs the selectors had demanded but they had stuck with and supported him for a long time, and I did not see a change coming midway through a series, particularly after a victory. So yes, I was pretty surprised to be called up, but naturally I am delighted and I am looking forward to playing on Friday."

Read, despite being widely regarded as the best wicketkeeper in England, has had to wait more than two years for another opportunity to impress. The specialist wicketkeepers around the country, the majority of whom are only recognisable as stumpers because they wear gloves, will be delighted by his re-selection, but Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, is the man whom he needs to sway most.

Fletcher's support for Jones, who began his rehabilitation yesterday by scoring 35 for Kent in their County Championship match at Canterbury before being trapped leg before by Hampshire's Shane Warne, is well known and he is sure to be on the plane to Sydney in November. If Read is to join him he will need to post at least one decent score in the final two Tests of the summer.

"Duncan is definitely one of the people I need to impress," admitted Read yesterday. "My batting average is under 16 in Test cricket, and that is not what they picked me for back in 1999 or in 2003 and it is certainly not the case now. I know I need to score runs.

"It goes without saying that I need to keep to a high standard, and I don't want my keeping to fall away because I still believe that it is my No 1 role in the side. But runs are crucial and I need to prove those people who don't believe that I can succeed with the bat at international level wrong," Read said.

On this front, despite averaging almost 50 with the bat since being dropped, Read has some work to do. In 11 appearances in Test matches his highest score is an unbeaten 38, but he is most famous for ducking and jumping over a Chris Cairns slower ball when playing against New Zealand at Lord's in 1999. It did not help that the clip was then used in the opening titles of the BBC's They Think It's All Over for several years, with Richie Benaud making a quizzical statement as his stumps were broken.

Read still laughs at the incident but he hopes that people remember him for the more positive moments in his career.

"The dismissal probably didn't help me," he admitted. "But I'd like to think that the cricketing public see me as a talented gloveman who needs to prove himself with the bat."

He now has the chance to do just that.

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