‘Does drive, on the up. What a moment for the young 22-year old. The first Test hundred from Zak Crawley. It is a moment he would never forget. Well played.’
Zak Crawley is probably going to treasure these words from Nasser Hussain for a long time. First hundreds are always special and he had registered one at The Rose Bowl in Southampton. Did we just see the rise of a future star for England? Only time will say that but heroes emerge in dire situations. Despite the hosts being in a spot of bother at 127/4 on Day One, Crawley’s perseverance at the crease gave his team the upper hand in the final Test match against Pakistan.
His innings can be divided into two phases. As wickets kept tumbling from one end, Zak didn’t bow down but indeed showed great intent and character. For someone who is seen more of a prodigy for the T20 format, his restraint at the crease came as a surprise to many. He carefully assessed the conditions and played according to the match situation.
“My dad has a great work ethic and always said when I was growing up that I was not working hard enough at my sport. Without realizing it, I was soon working harder than other people my age”
Kent Cricket saw potential in Crawley at an early age. Zak was just 15-years old when he received a call-up to play for their second XI. However, he couldn’t do anything special in domestic cricket. Making his international debut against the Black Caps at Seddon Park, many raised eyebrows as he didn’t have a great first-class record. He was dismissed for one as a dashing Neil Wagner got the young batsman to nick it on a good length ball.
The first glimpse of his resilience with the bat was visible at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg where he completed his maiden fifty earlier this year. Or the knock of 76 at No.4 in the recently concluded West Indies series at the very same ground. It helped him inspire confidence in the selectors that he’s the man to look up to. His half-century in the last game and Rory Burns‘ failure at the same time worked in his favor.
And he grabbed the chance with both hands. Despite the home team being under pressure, he continued to be calm at the crease and waited for the right deliveries. As both Crawley and Buttler recovered England and put up a spectacular partnership, they started to look even better. It’s rare to be the aggressor of the innings while sharing the crease with someone like a Jos Buttler. But Crawley was hellbent not only to take England through but also in building a long inning.
Day 2 saw Crawley facing nine overs before scoring his first runs. He scored a boundary with a flick towards the midwicket. Runs started coming at ease for the pair as the day progressed. They had not only registered the best-ever fifth-wicket partnership in the history of England cricket but also batted Pakistan out of the game. The young prospect was now closing onto a double century. Rather than showing signs of nervousness, he was brimming with confidence.
He was on 197* when a fortunate edge went past second slip for a boundary. Not the best way but nevertheless, Crawley could breathe easily. He waved his bat at the dressing room that rose up in adulation for Zak. After all, he had crossed the 200-run mark, something that greats of the game like Mark Waugh and Michael Hussey couldn’t accomplish.
With the England total above 400, Zak Crawley shifted his gears as he lofted Yasir Shah out of the park. There hadn’t been a single moment where he looked uncomfortable against the Pakistani pacers. He took just 41 balls to reach his next fifty. For a person who had already played a delightful knock, his willingness to stay at the crease was praiseworthy. He was racing towards a possible triple century before getting out in the most bizarre fashion. Stumped.
“It feels great and just how I imagined it. An unbelievable feeling of elation out there and it makes you want it more”
The hunger was prominent. Ever since the retirement of Alastair Cook, England have been suffering from a dearth of batsmen at the top order. The English management has tried to fit in a total of nine openers since Cook. However, Zak Crawley’s double ton may well be a blessing in disguise for England as it will give ample time to Joe Root to rejuvenate himself.
For some reason, his knock reminded me of Karun Nair. The Indian batsman had also turned his first ton into a triple hundred. Unfortunately, he didn’t enjoy much confidence from the Indian selectors thereafter and was shown the door after four bad innings. That would be the last thing I would hope for Zak Crawley. He has come in at a crucial juncture for the Englishmen.
If Zak manages to raise levels to his game, we may have well witnessed the beginning of a successful career at the Rose Bowl.