Key is a classy opening batsman who came to prominence when he hit over 1,000 runs during the 2001 season and was then selected to spend time with Rod Marsh’s Academy in Adelaide.
He became the second player who attended the Academy - after Simon Jones - to be handed his Test debut, against India the following summer.
Key was included in the squad to tour Australia for the Ashes series in 2002/03 and made some useful contributions, including a half-century in the fourth Test in Melbourne.
He was no stranger to success on the international stage having helped England win the Under-19 World Cup in 1998.
He returned to the England fold in 2004 after once again impressing for Kent in domestic action, when he became the first batsman to reach 1,000 first-class runs.
After featuring in the NatWest Series, Key was called up for the first Test against West Indies at Lord's due to the absence of the injured Mark Butcher.
It was his first Test appearance in over a year and he seized the opportunity to impress as he hammered 221 in the first innings to set England on their way to a 210-run victory.
That secured his place for the rest of the series and he made a crucial 93 not out in the third Test as England made the highest ever fourth-innings total (231 for three) to win a Test at Old Trafford.
That proved enough to earn selection ahead of Ian Bell in the Test squad for the tour of South Africa and he began the winter in fine style when he hammered 87 off 85 balls as England beat Nicky Oppenheimer's XI by eight wickets in the first warm-up match.
That was not sufficient to secure a place in the side for the first Test, but he was recalled for the third Test in Cape Town after Butcher was ruled out with a wrist injury.
He failed to score in the first innings but was England's second highest run-scorer second time round with 41, although it was not enough to prevent a 196-run defeat.
Butcher was then ruled out of the rest of the series after failing to recover from the injury, meaning Key retained his place for the fourth Test in Johannesburg. He responded by making 83 and shared a 182-run stand with opener Andrew Strauss.
He made 164 against Gloucestershire in Kent's second championship match of the 2005 season and was named in the England Development Squad in May.
He was named in the ECB National Academy Squad for winter 2005/06 after another prolific season in domestic cricket when he was the fourth highest run-scorer in Frizzell County Championship Division One with 1,556.
He was appointed Kent skipper for 2006 following David Fulton's decision to stand down, and chosen to lead England A in the tour matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
He had a disappointing season by his own standards, but was named in the National Academy intake for the winter trip to Australia and re-appointed captain of Kent for 2007.
He led his county to the Twenty20 Cup that season, topping their batting averages with 70.5.
He also scored 1,250 runs in the championship, including five hundreds, as Kent managed to escape relegation and remain the only county to have never been in Division Two.
But that distinction was lost in 2008 when Kent finished second-bottom to Surrey, despite winning five championship matches.
Key failed to pass 1,000 runs, but his 864 first-class runs still represented a decent return for a man with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.
178 of them arrived against the touring New Zealanders, but instead of a Test recall, Key was granted the England Lions captaincy.
Key flayed unbeaten knocks of 76 and 120 in successive NatWest Pro40 matches in August, but he could not carry Kent to promotion.
And with Kent losing both the Friends Provident Trophy final and the Twenty20 Cup final - despite Key’s 52 - 2008 was a year of near misses for the Spitfires skipper.
He continued to lead England Lions, on their winter tour of New Zealand in early 2009.
His senior England hopes received a boost at the beginning of the following season when he was named in a 25-man England Performance Squad and also earned a place in a 15-man party for the World Twenty20.
After a successful season with Kent in 2009, including capturing the LV= County Championship Division Two title, he signed a new long-term deal with the county as well as agreeing to remain their skipper for the 2010 season.
However, they were relegated that year and were still in the second tier when Key relinquished the captaincy in late 2012.