|Ground:||St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury|
|Scorecard:||England A v Pakistanis|
|Player:||RWT Key, IR Bell|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 6th July 2006
Robert Key gave the England selectors a timely reminder of his ability by scoring an unbeaten century against Pakistan for England A here Thursday.
On a day when England captain Michael Vaughan was ruled out of the Ashes series after knee surgery, A team skipper Key's 128 not out was the centrepiece of the hosts' 268 for three on the opening day of this four-day fixture - Pakistan's final first-class match before next week's first Test at Lord's.
Key, 27, who had shoulder surgery during the off-season, played the last of his 15 Tests against South Africa at Centurion in January 2005.
He is still restricted in his ability to throw, so may not make it into the Lord's squad due to be announced on Sunday.
But he did his chances of going on the Ashes tour no harm at all, making the most of a reprieve after being dropped on 30, by batting all day on his Kent home ground to score his maiden first-class century of the season.
At stumps he had faced 250 balls with two sixes and 16 fours, while Ravi Bopara was unbeaten on seven.
England A lost Owais Shah (23) in the final session when he pushed forward defensively to leg-spinner Danish Kaneria and was caught by Imran Farhat at first slip.
Key, together with Ian Bell (74), put on 160 for the second-wicket in 45 overs after winning the toss.
Pakistan had a scare before lunch when Kamran Akmal, the only wicket-keeper in their squad, sustained a injury to his left index finger.
But a Pakistan spokesman later said Akmal's finger was bruised not broken, strengthening hopes he would be fit for Lord's where the first Test of a four-match series is due to start a week on Thursday.
Key, dropped by Akmal off Mohammad Asif before lunch, and Bell, unbeaten on 36, scored briskly after the resumption.
Bell's fifty came off 112 balls with seven fours, while Key was the slightly.
more rapid of the duo, his half-century coming up in 95 balls.
Key then drove Kaneria back over the bowler's head for six.
However, Pakistan broke the partnership when Bell, aiming to force through the offside, was caught behind by stand-in keeper Faisal Iqbal off a rising Umar Gul delivery, leaving England A 164 for two in the 49th over.
But Key kept going and a single off seamer Abdul Razzaq took him to a 191-ball century with two sixes and 14 fours.
Meanwhile pace bowler Rana Naved, struggling with a groin injury, came on as a substitute fielder.
Earlier Pakistan had opener Alastair Cook, set to be one of their Lord's opponents, caught by a diving Akmal for three after the left-hander pushed forward to Mohammad Sami.
Pakistan made four changes to the side that beat Leicestershire by eight wickets in a three-day game at Grace Road concluded Monday.
Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq returned in place of vice-captain Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf took the place of fellow batsman Shahid Afridi, Razzaq came in for all-rounder Shoaib Malik and Asif replaced seamer Shahid Nazir.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)