England batsmen not helped by poor county pitches, says Rob Key
"Don't tell me the conditions are the same as they were however long ago - that's complete and utter rubbish"
Last Updated: 01/12/19 3:15am
Rob Key has hit out at the condition of county pitches, claiming they are detrimental to English batsmen’s chances of succeeding in Test cricket.
Key clashed with host Charles Colvile on The Cricket Debate as they dissected the second day's play in England's Test match against New Zealand in Hamilton.
The tourists made a sluggish start in response to New Zealand's first-innings total of 375, losing Dom Sibley and Joe Denly early on as they closed on 39-2.
While the panel - which also included ex-England player Jonathan Trott - assessed the state of the match, Key strongly disagreed with Colvile's assertion that English conditions had always been unhelpful to batsmen.
"When I played, you used to get 1,600 runs a year in county cricket, that was average," said the former Kent and England batsman.
"This year, the two best sides in [County Championship] Division One, Somerset and Essex - the two teams who had a chance to win it - do you know what the top run-scorer for both teams had? 800.
"And that's one of England's greatest ever run-scorers, Sir Alastair Cook. Don't tell me the conditions are the same as they were however long ago - that's complete and utter rubbish.
"There's one player who got 1,000 runs in the championship this year - Dom Sibley. One player as opposed to 20 in 2004. The bowlers haven't improved, the bowlers have got worse.
"It doesn't work when you play on nonsense pitches. There are two less games and people aren't scoring as many runs, so the games aren't lasting long enough."
Opener Sibley, who is playing in only his second Test, also came under scrutiny over his open stance, having been struck on the helmet by a short ball from Tim Southee during his brief stay at the crease.
Key feels the England batsman must make a decision on whether to adapt his technique - but also cautioned against the idea of young players being over-burdened with coaching advice.
He added: "When we were growing up, you would watch and mimic without having your head cluttered with technique and learn from other players. I used to love watching Steve Waugh bat.
"Then you got left alone for a bit, so you had a pretty regulation, side-on technique. It wasn't until later on that coaches start getting in your head, talking about trigger movements and lots of different things.
"You don't to be cluttering their minds, you want to teach them the right mentality so they've got a base game.
"Sibley has changed his technique - he's become more open-chested and pointing down the ground and actually he's had more success with that.
"That is the toughest thing Sibley is going to have to answer because now there's a decision to be made - do you try and intervene now or say 'you've got this far, you've got to go with it?'"
The panel also discussed:
- England's prospects in the match - and the importance of one of their batsmen scoring a century on day three.
- Whether England were right to go into the game without a spinner - Trott praised the performance of former Warwickshire team-mate Chris Woakes.
- Whether statistics actually matter - or whether they can give a misleading impression as to what a pitch might do.
Watch day three of the second Test between New Zealand and England live on Sky Sports Cricket from 9pm.