Crawley puts on batting masterclass for maiden Test century as England take control of Third Test
ZAK CRAWLEY was touched by the batting gods as his brilliant maiden Test century announced his arrival as a major international player.
Crawley’s innings of 171 not out was nearly faultless and totally chanceless and a masterclass in how to score runs against some of the world’s best bowlers.
It is difficult to imagine anybody playing better against a high-class attack. Aged just 22, he is starting to look a heck of a prospect.
With Jos Buttler helping in a fifth-wicket partnership that has so far produced 205 runs at four runs-per-over, England ended day one with 332-4 and are in complete command of the Third Test.
Such was Crawley’s positive intent, he clipped his first ball for four and reached his half-century with a glorious off-drive to the boundary from the last delivery before lunch.
Three figures arrived courtesy of a push into the covers for two runs shortly after tea. Crawley’s face was a picture of joy as he raised his bat and kissed the badge on his helmet.
It would be a big surprise if this is not the first of several centuries for England.
Crawley averages only 30 in his first-class career with Kent and had only three hundreds before yesterday. But, like David Gower, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan and others before him, he appears capable of stepping up to the highest level without a bundle of stats behind him.
Some people are blessed with a talent and temperament that can succeed at the very top.
With his bat following a straight trajectory, the full blade presented to the ball and his balance superb for a tall fella, Crawley’s technique is right from the textbook. No twitches or tics or quirks for this 6ft 5ins man of Kent.
He showed promise last winter in South Africa and, after being dropped for two Tests this summer when England re-balanced their XI because of Ben Stokes’ thigh injury, Crawley made 53 in the Second Test.
To most people, the few hours’ play on Monday evening of that weather-ruined match was meaningless. But Crawley took the chance to score runs, gain confidence and have a look at Pakistan’s bowlers.
He reaped the rewards today and his eighth Test match is one he will never forget.
Crawley’s father, Terry, is a one-time carpet salesman who became a multi-millionaire City trader in a famous ‘Rugs to Riches’ story. Zak is grounded, determined and a lovely lad but his batting sure is luxury goods rather than bargain basement.
He has already made the fifth-highest score by an England batsman aged 22 or less – behind Len Hutton (364), Bill Edrich (219), Gower (200 not out) and Joe Root (180).
Crawley came in when, not for the first time in this series, opener Rory Burns edged a catch into the slips off left-armer Shaheen Afridi. Burns’ scores against Pakistan have been 4, 10, 0 and now 6.
Dom Sibley was lbw as he advanced down the pitch to wrist-spinner Yasir Shah. Sibley reviewed but ball tracking upheld the decision.
Michael Gough might have been one of the umpires too quick to take off the players for bad light last week but his decision-making on the field this summer has been outstanding. No umpire in the world gets more right.
Root was caught behind from a jaffa from 17-year-old Naseem Shah that left him and bounced a touch.
And when Ollie Pope followed, bowled by Yasir when he should have played forward rather than back, England were wobbling a little at 127-4.
But Crawley and Buttler batted with such control that any alarm in England’s dressing-room soon evaporated. By the end, they were milking and manipulating Pakistan’s bowlers almost as they pleased.
Pakistan have a talented and varied attack but in the evening session looked tired, despondent and short of ideas – even when the second new ball arrived. They didn’t enjoy the gusting 40mph wind, either.
Crawley showed his hunger and ruthlessness by not giving away his wicket and Buttler continued his improved form with the bat in Test cricket this summer.
Crawley could go on to something truly huge today while Buttler has the perfect opportunity to complete his second Test century.
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