Read renews Test bid with ton against Pakistan

Published: Saturday, July 8, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Canterbury:Former England wicket-keeper Chris Read advanced his case for a Test recall by making an unbeaten century for England 'A' here Friday against a near full-strength Pakistan attack.

When bad light forced an early close on the second day, England 'A', in their first innings, were 530 for nine with Read 120 not out and Stuart Broad unbeaten on 29.

Read, who played the last of his 11 Tests against the West Indies in Barbados over two years ago, was dropped in favour of Geraint Jones on account of the latter's superior batting.

But at his Kent rival's county home ground Read, 27, played an assured innings to notch his third hundred of the season as England selector and former Test off-spinner Geoff Miller watched from the boundary.

"People keep talking about making statements to selectors but I'm not trying to make any sort of statement I'm trying to play good cricket," Read told reporters after stumps.

"A criticism in the past was that I got out too often in the 60s and 70s but this year my conversion rate when I've got in has been pretty good, so I was happy to go on and get three figures today.

"The only reason I was axed (from the England team) was a lack of runs and in the last two years I've done a lot of work to get my batting up to scratch."

Earlier Pakistan suffered a second injury blow just days before the first Test against England when fast bowler Mohammad Asif left the field with a right elbow injury.

Asif sent down just five overs on Friday, but Pakistan tour manager Zaheer Abbas said he expected the paceman to be available for selection come Thursday's first day at Lord's.

His injury came after Kamran Akmal, the only wicket-keeper in the Pakistan squad, sustained a left index finger injury.

Akmal, off the field for most of the first day's play, did not take the field Friday with stand-in Faisal Iqbal continuing behind the stumps.

Pakistan leg-spinner Danish Kaneria led the attack with four for 148 in a marathon 46 overs on a good batting pitch.

When Broad, the 19-year-old pace bowling son of former England opening batsman Chris, came to the crease Read was still nine short of his century.

But any worries Read had that Broad might fall quickly were eased by the left-hander's resolute defence before the keeper's cover-driven boundary off occasional spinner Imran Farhat, his 14th four, took him to a 140-ball hundred which also included a straight six off Kaneria.

His innings was timely with Jones, widely regarded as an inferior gloveman to Read, having seen his Test batting average drop to 26.

England are due to name their first Test squad on Sunday and, for all Jones's woes, it would be a major surprise if he lost his place given the unswerving support he has so far received from England coach Duncan Fletcher.

Another player aiming for a Test return was A team captain Robert Key whose seven-hour innings, on his Kent home ground, was eventually ended when the opener was bowled for 136 by Abdul Razzaq.

Key's exit left the hosts on 291 for six but a stand of 102 between Read and off-spinning all-rounder Alex Loudon (51) kept Pakistan at bay.

England A resumed Friday on 268 for three, with Key 128 not out and Ravi Bopara seven not out.

Pakistan took the prize wicket of Key, who played the last of his 15 Tests against South Africa at Centurion in January 2005, when Razzaq struck with his second delivery Friday to knock over the off-stump with a ball that moved away from the right-hander.

Key, dropped on 30 by Akmal on Thursday, faced 269 balls with two sixes and 17 fours.

But although the 27-year-old Kent captain's innings was unlikely to catapult him into a place in the first Test squad - he is still hampered in his ability to throw after shoulder surgery in the off-season - it had revived his hopes of making the Ashes tour later in the year.

Play was halted at 12pm local time (1100GMT) for Britain's national two minutes silence marking the first anniversary of the London terror bombings, players from both sides lining up on the outfield while spectators stood.


England 'A' 1st Innings:

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-164, 3-238, 4-282, 5-283, 6-291, 7-393, 8-453, 9-468

Pakistan: Imran Farhat, Salman Butt, Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Kamran Akmal (wkt), Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Danish Kaneria

Toss: England A

Umpires: Richard Illingworth (ENG), Darrell Hair (AUS)

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