Lions Tour is Key to success

Saturday 14th February 2009

Robert Key leads the England Lions out to New Zealand believing they can all force their way into the senior sides this summer.

The Kent batsman takes charge of the 15-man squad for a five-week tour comprising two Tests, two one-day matches and a Twenty20 game against their New Zealand A counterparts.

Every member of that squad has realistic designs on breaking into the selectors’ thoughts before a big summer comprising a Test and one-day series against West Indies, the ICC World Twenty20, the Ashes series and a seven-match one-day international series against Australia.

But Key, who has not played a Test for England since 2005, believes the most promising chance of promotion could be into the one-day line-up following the 5-0 whitewash they suffered before Christmas in India.

"India are a fantastic team but with them beating England 5-0 there’s bound to be changes," said Key.

"There are people like Luke Wright who are in the Lions squad who are going out there with a point to prove,"

"We’re also going to a place where England lost their last one-day series so there are places up for grabs, and if you can go out there and really show you’re playing it the way the rest of the world is playing one-day cricket then you’ve got a good chance,"

Sussex all-rounder Wright, Nottinghamshire’s Samit Patel and Essex’s Ravi Bopara are all due to fly from New Zealand to the Caribbean for the start of the one-day series against West Indies in early March.

Wicketkeeper Steven Davies has also been selected for that one-day series, but will fly out slightly earlier to join up with the squad for the final Test at Trinidad as cover for Tim Ambrose because Matt Prior is heading home to be at the birth of his first child.

There are also other candidates like Kent opener Joe Denly, Middlesex’s Eoin Morgan and Kent seamer Amjad Khan while players like Jonathan Trott, Sajid Mahmood and Liam Plunkett will all be battling for a recall.

"Things are changing at the top level," said Key. "There is a new coach for this tour and there could be a new coach in a few months’ time and there is also a new captain.

"I think we’re all aware that if we go on this trip and become the top run-scorer, you bang out runs every time and attack power-plays as an opener in one-day cricket and play the spinners well, the opportunities are there.

"The coaches on the trip will be in constant contact with the selectors so we all feel it will do us no harm to have a bumper trip both individually and as a team."

Key is particularly encouraged by the pace bowling resources at his disposal, especially Plunkett and Mahmood who he believes have both matured since they last featured for England.

"The quick guys have all been in the set-up and are now all coming back," he added. "I’d like to think they are a lot more wily now, they are not quite as raw.

"We had a lot of guys during the Fletcher era, people like Liam Plunkett, where they picked them very young and kept them in the set-up a little bit and they didn’t actually play all that much cricket.

"Now we’ve got a load of blokes coming through who have actually played a lot more cricket. They have a couple of years’ more knowledge from county cricket so they’ve got to be better cricketers. They are probably more ready now than they were when they got picked originally."

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