A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

Whatever Happened To The Unlikely Lads? #37: Rob Key

Posted on October 27, 2013 by in Opinion


Our recent holiday was eye-opening in several different respects. Some of us learned some frightening new gin-based cocktails, with the Mickey Slim being our new favourite, while others became acquainted with what goes on underneath a woman’s blouse for the first time. Perhaps the most eye-opening thing though was the number of extremely obese British people we saw who were more than happy to let their flabby bits swing freely in the Spanish sun. Obviously each and every 51allout writer is a Nick Compton-esque Adonis – Editor Steve’s casting couch recruitment policy being legendary across the industry – but it turns out that not everyone is quite so fortunate. There are some really, really fat people out there.

Apropos of nothing, this got us thinking: what exactly happened to the international career of

#37: Robert William Trevor Key

A quick look at Rob Key’s Test career shows a batting average of 31.00. Scratch a little deeper though, and the truth begins to emerge, like a butterfly of crapness emerging from the chrysalis of a shoddy Test career. Or something like that. Metaphors have never really been our thing, with us usually trading on our looks instead.

Of Key’s 775 Test runs, 221 of them came in a single knock as the West Indies were battered in 2004, a series they lost 4-0. Beyond that innings it’s mediocrity galore, with his average dropping to just 23.08, below such esteemed batsman as Geraint Jones, Nicholas Verity Knight and Dermot Reeve. Basically, that’s not good.

Nick struggles to explain why he was quite so bad at Test cricket.

Being asked questions on the TV always seemed to confuse Nick quite a lot.

As a youngster, Key was an all-round sportsman in every respect of the word. As well as his cricket, he also represented Kent at tennis and once took on a bear in an eating contest. He starred for England’s under-17 and under-19 sides, winning the under-19 Cricket World Cup with the latter, before getting a chance at Test level in 2002 as an injury replacement for Marcus Trescothick, opening against India. Key made just 17, being rather overshadowed by his opening partner as Michael Vaughan made 197.

Key made 30 and 34 in the following Test at Headingley as England were trounced by an innings. It wasn’t enough to keep his place though, as the home side opted to rush Trescothick back into the team, despite him having to be propped up in a Weekend At Bernie’s fashion.

Key retained his place in the England squad for the following winter’s Ashes series, despite captain Nasser Hussain’s concerns about the plane being unable to get off the runway at Heathrow. He replaced John Crawley for the final four Tests but contributed the square root of fuck all as the tourists were crushed. There then followed a distinctly unsuccessful home series against Zimababwe before the sweet release of being banished back to the county game.

The Rob Key story would probably have ended there, or at least in the nearest Pizza Hut, were it not for a curious incident the following year when a mysterious stranger crashed into the back of Mark Butcher’s car. Key was recalled in his place, although he had to hitch a lift to Lord’s due to his own car suffering from some unexplained structural damage, where he made 221 from 288 balls, England’s second highest individual score of the decade.

The Keymobile suffered at the hands of its driver's ambition.

The Keymobile suffered at the hands of its driver’s over-ambition.

It was, of course, a massive exception. Key played six more Tests without reaching another hundred before being phased out for the likes of Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen; basically athletic types who could see their own feet. Oddly enough, Key was part of England’s World T20 side in 2009 but only played in just the one game, the comical defeat to the Netherlands that we’re still really annoyed about even now.

Despite his failings at international level, Key remained a key player at Kent throughout his career, with more than 17,000 First Class runs to his name to date. Plus he got himself an occasional gig presenting on Sky when the proper presenters were off playing golf in David Gower’s garden.


Or dressing like a member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Of course, no article about Rob Key would be complete without some laughing at the man himself, so here’s a YouTube clip of him being hit in the bollocks by Jimmy Anderson:

And here’s a clip of, er, well, just watch and enjoy:

1 Comment

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Dmitri Old

19 Nov 2013 11:49

I’m always intrigued why Mr Key leaves off my alma mater (and I know he went there) in his “education” bit on the profiles (such as this one one cricinfo – http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/15876.html). What did he get up to at my old school that he won’t even mention us.

I like Big Bob. Despite the fact he smashes Surrey to all parts every time I am there, he was a pretty good batsman. And yes, he trends towards my own physique, so there.