|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 3rd August 2006
Chris Read admitted Wednesday he'd been surprised to be given a chance to resurrect his career as England wicket-keeper after thinking rival Geraint Jones had become "part of the furniture".
Read, after more than two years out of the team, has been selected for the third Test against Pakistan starting at Headingley here Friday.
That will end Jones's run of 31 consecutive Tests which started when he replaced Read in Antigua for the final match of England's victorious 2004 series in the West Indies.
"I was pretty surprised to be honest but delighted. After someone's played 31 consecutive Tests they are part of the furniture a little bit," Read said.
"He (Jones) hasn't scored the amount of runs the selectors have demanded. "But they've stuck with him and supported him for a long time so I didn't necessarily see any change coming midway through a series particularly after a victory."
Read lost his place to Jones on account of the Kent keeper's superior batting although he was widely regarded as the better gloveman.
But a run of just one fifty in Jones's last 15 Test innings was too much for the selectors to ignore.
Jones produced one of his best wicket-keeping displays during England's innings and 120-run second Test victory at Old Trafford, a win that put the hosts 1-0 up in the four-match series, with five dismissals in Pakistan's second innings.
By then Jones had already fractured his right ring finger while batting although the selectors subsequently said he'd been dropped because of a lack of runs and not through injury.
Now Read has the chance to become England's No 1 keeper come the first Ashes Test in Brisbane - where the Australia-raised Jones grew up - in November.
Although he averages just 15.30 from 11 Tests, the 27-year-old Read's batting has improved markedly since he was axed from the international side and last month he scored 150 not out for England A against Pakistan - at Jones's Kent home ground in Canterbury.
"After Canterbury, I had half an eye on this (northern) winter, which is a phenomenal winter to be involved in - an Ashes tour and then the World Cup.
"But now I'm not looking too far past this Test," added Read, who last season helped Nottinghamshire win the County Championship.
"Keeping to a high standard goes without saying, because I still believe that's my number one role, but runs are crucial."
And Read admitted his England exile could easily have been prolonged.
"If he (Jones) had gone out and scored a hundred in one of the innings at Old Trafford, I wouldn't be sat here now."
But Read insisted there was no animosity between himself and Jones.
"Geraint and I have always got on exceptionally well. But at the same time there's only one of you, like a goalkeeper in football.
"I've been given this opportunity now and, if I'm ruthless about it, I'll hopefully tie it down for the near future."
Earlier this season Read was given a one-match suspended ban after a verbal confrontation with Pakistan's Mushtaq Ahmed, playing for Sussex, whom he'd accused of excessive appealing having fallen for nought to the leg-spinner.
"Maybe it changed a few opinions, because in the past people have said 'he's too mild-mannered'.
"But it didn't help me. I regret what I did because it was wrong."
Read made his England debut in 1999 and in his second Test, at Lord's, suffered the embarrassment of being bowled for nought ducking a slower ball from New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns.
"The general public probably remember that but I'd like to think the cricketing public see me as a talented gloveman who probably needs to prove himself with the bat."
And Read admitted England coach Duncan Fletcher was one of those who needed convincing. "For sure. My average is under 16 in Test cricket. That's not what they've picked me for."
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)