Rob Key has insisted England will not base their selection decisions on “averages and pure stats” after naming a 15-man Test squad to face Ireland.

Zak Crawley retained his place in the squad and looks set to open the batting alongside Ben Duckett in the one-off Test at Lords on June 1.

The 25-year-old has been in decent form so far this season for Kent, scoring one hundred and two fifties alongside four single-figure scores but has been inconsistent for England in recent times, averaging exactly 23 in the 2022 home Test summer with He was mooted by some as the player to make way for the returning Jonny Bairstow, who enjoyed the best summer of his career in 2022 but has not played international cricket since breaking his leg playing golf in September.

England have gone another way, though, choosing not to promote a middle order player to open the batting and instead leaving out Ben Foakes.

Speaking to the media after the squad announcement, Key, the managing director of England men’s cricket, insisted he had “agonised” over the decision as Foakes had done “everything you can ask of him,” but added that Bairstow was among “the best batters in the world” and that the team looked “very good” with him in at seven.

On Crawley’s place in the squad, which comes despite a Test average of 22.39 since the start of 2021, Key stressed the importance of his overall influence that in his view is represented by the raw numbers.

“We’re not so much down the road of averages and pure stats,” he said. “It’s about how do you impact games of cricket.

“There are moments in games where that opening partnership was match defining. Against India, where him and Alex Lees put on a partnership that helped Jonny and Joe [Root] chase the rest of the score down, that opening stand was part of a match-winning performance.”

Crawley made 46 in a first-wicket partnership of 107 against India last summer, as England went on to complete an unlikely chase of 378 for the loss of just three wickets.

Key continued: ‘Then you play South Africa, and there was a 30 off 100 balls that allowed Ben Foakes and Ben Stokes to not have to deal with the new ball.

“There’s been positive impacts in match-winning performances that have contributed to us winning games. In Pakistan he scored a hundred that set the tone for that tour.”

England went on to win 3-0 in Pakistan, their first ever whitewash in a country where they had previously won just twice. On the first morning at Rawalpindi, Crawley scored 122 off 111 – the fastest Test hundred by an England opener.

Whatever Crawley’s role, the first summer Test will be an important one for both sides. Ireland last played England in 2019, when they threatened to pull off a famous Lord’s win after bowling them out for 85 on day one, but eventually lost heavily after being skittled for 38 in the fourth innings.

Ireland lost 2-0 in their last Test series against Sri Lanka last month, but did take important strides with the bat, including scoring 492 in the first innings of the second Test match.

They will be without fast bowler Josh Little, who returns to the IPL with the Gujarat Titans following his appearances for Ireland in their recent ODI series against Bangladesh.

For England, the the game will be their last chance to look at players in the Test arena before the start of the Ashes.

England squad to face Ireland

Ben Stokes (c), Ollie Pope (vc & wk), Jonny Bairstow (wk), James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Matty Potts, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.