London: Robert Key was named on Saturday as Graham Thorpe's replacement in England's Ashes party for the forthcoming tour of Australia.
Thorpe, England's leading middle-order batsman withdrew on Tuesday two weeks after convincing the selectors he was in the right frame of mind to travel to Australia. Surrey left-hander Thorpe, had assured England's management that the problems in his personal life, which forced him to take a break from all cricket this summer, would not prevent him completing the tour. But his U-turn has given Key a chance to cement his international place. Key, 23, made his Test debut earlier this summer playing two matches against India after being drafted in as cover for injured opener Marcus Trescothick. In three innings Kent right-hander Key managed 81 runs with a best of 34 at an average of 27. But despite that modest record, the selectors resisted the temptation to recall Thorpe's fellow 33-year-old and Surrey teammate Mark Ramprakash even though the former Middlesex captain averages over 42 in his 12 Tests against Australia. Explaining their decision, England's chairman of selectors David Graveney said, "The selectors considered various options but we wanted to maintain continuity in terms of selection. "Robert played two Tests this summer, one at Trent Bridge and one at Headingley, which was a difficult wicket, and he showed a lot of promise. "Michael Vaughan (now an England opener) began his international career in the middle order and we have no problem with considering Robert for any batting position either." A stunned Key, who last year was a member of England's Academy squad in Australia, said, "I am thrilled. To tour Australia is something I have wanted to do ever since I was a kid. "I had planned for a winter off, taking it easy at home and playing some hockey before Christmas and then going to Perth and working on my game in the New Year so this has come as a big surprise. "I was pleased with my summer. My plan was to make the Test team and I achieved that. "I felt in good shape in the Tests and I got a start in each one but did not make the most of it after doing the hard work. I now need to establish myself in the team. "I have spent quite a lot of time in Australia. It's a great place to play cricket and the wickets are probably the best batting wickets in the world. I'm looking forward to it." England departs for the five Test series in Australia in October. It has not won the Ashes since 1986-87.
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