New-look Read ready to succeed Stewart

Lancashire 354 and 41-2 Nottinghamshire 275 Match drawn

Stephen Brenkley@stephenbrenkley
Sunday 01 December 2013 03:35
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In the unlikely circumstance that Alec Stewart does not go on forever, England might need a new wicketkeeper sometime. The evidence at Old Trafford yesterday, and at plenty of other places in the past year, is that they could do worse, much worse, than halting their quest at Chris Read.

He was tried once before when Stewart was first jettisoned four years ago. This was a premature notion that lasted two Test matches. Stewart was recalled and though Read played a few one-day internationals the following winter in South Africa, the selectors' hearts were not in it.

Read disappeared into county obscurity, gone and probably forgotten. Old Alec seemed to set out his stall to last longer than The Mousetrap and even when the mission to run and run was briefly interrupted once more, the place went to James Foster.

But Read has been learning his trade. His wicketkeeping is neat and composed, his batting complements it. Both facets of his game have an added panache about them. He was partly resurrected by being sent to the Academy last winter and was sometimes formidable for the side who toured Sri Lanka.

Read has brought that solid form to the start of the domestic season, of which his 57 here was a further extension. There was a mild danger of Nottinghamshire being forced to follow on when he came to the crease after the loss of two quick wickets. He had to withstand a piercing examination at first as Peter Martin extracted movement, but his stroke options were usually correct. There were abundant gaps and he found them. Read is not afraid to improvise.

It is folly to make comparisons with heroes of the past (the wish syndrome which has undone so many new Bothams over the years) but there are faint echoes about him of Alan Knott.

Stewart has indicated that if the selectors choose a new one-day keeper he would understand. Read has the credentials and there is also a case for his early restoration to the Test side. His presence ensured that the follow-on target was easily passed. His half-century took 87 balls and contained eight fours. It killed the match as a contest as well.

Lancashire will feel hard done by. It looks as if they might have the tools to make another concerted tilt for the Championship this year. Not to win it, of course, because they have signally failed to do that since 1934. They began the season in bristling mood against the holders, Surrey, and demonstrated enough in this rain-ruined contest to suggest that they will remain competitive. Renewed playing success may help to deflect attention from their money worries. They made a profit last year but the battle to make ends meet is constant.

The club will appeal this week against the refusal of a licence to allow them to stage a concert by rock musician Bruce Springsteen at Old Trafford. If they are successful, they should make £100,000 and fill the ground with 50,000 spectators, some £99,500 and 49,500 people more than yesterday's proceedings.

Old Trafford has had a facelift with the old pavilion having been given a new roof during the winter. It has a symmetrical look to it now, though the roof is of the kind to be seen on any new semi-detached housing development. The rest of the ground still looks slightly shabby and feels faintly more archaic than historic. But if Old Trafford ever needs a pick-me-up, a visit to Headingley will do it.

When Read became Martin's fifth victim, the tail hung around to gain another point. Nottinghamshire, too, will feel they can make a real go of things this year.

The proceedings thereafter were entirely academic, the game continuing purely to ensure the continued employment of statisticians. Mal Loye failed to make a century for the first time in the Championship, and rain finally brought a halt in mid-afternoon.

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