Ashes tour diary: Zak Crawley expecting ‘easier’ Sydney Test as England stars recalled early from Big Bash League

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  • Zak Crawley
    English cricketer (born 1998)
Fighting talk: Zak Crawley says he will bounce back from struggles in the Fourth Ashes Test in Sydney (Getty Images)
Fighting talk: Zak Crawley says he will bounce back from struggles in the Fourth Ashes Test in Sydney (Getty Images)

Fighting talk from Zak Crawley. The Kent batter is confident that he can put his torrid 2021 behind him, and believes life will be easier at the SCG after he came back into the England side with no cricket under his belt in Melbourne.

Crawley made 12 and five at the MCG in what he believed was the “toughest” Test he has faced yet, to finish the year with an average of 11.

“That was the toughest I’ve had for sure,” he said. “I loved the challenge. I loved walking out to bat on Boxing Day, it was one of the best moments of my career. That evening with the crowd, it didn’t go my way, but I look back on it with fond memories and think it was special.

“I don’t think [Sydney] will be a tougher test. I think the wicket is going to be better, and it’ll be a bit easier. Usually having watched the Ashes a fair bit I feel there seem to be a lot more runs here. I am looking forward to that and hopefully that is the case.”

Crawley believes he can overcome Australia if he is a little less timid.

“Practising well and feeling in a good place,” he said. “Just not fearing them. I feel a few of us on our first Ashes tour were a bit wary of them but there's no need to be, they're great bowlers and some of the best in the world but when you get in as [Joe] Root and [Dawid] Malan have shown, they've looked very comfortable at times.

“I will certainly look to be a bit more confident and back myself because I know full well I can score a hundred here this week.”

BBL exodus

The ECB will pull players due to tour the West Indies for T20 cricket this month out of the BBL by January 7 because of Covid-19.

The tour will take place in what is expected to be a pretty hard bubble in Barbados, so the players must practice “safe living” before departing.

The six players who will have to leave are Sam Billings, Saqib Mahmood (both Sydney Thunder), James Vince (Sydney Sixers), Reece Topley (Melbourne Renegades), George Garton (Adelaide Strikers) and Tymal Mills (Perth Scorchers).

Sam Billings is among England’s T20 stars who will have to leave the BBL early this month (Getty Images)
Sam Billings is among England’s T20 stars who will have to leave the BBL early this month (Getty Images)

While the plan was for them to travel directly to the Caribbean, the rising Covid cases across Australia – but especially in Sydney – mean they will play a game or two more each before departing.

Who knows – perhaps they could travel back on the Test team’s charter?

Big Bangs League

It is easy to see why the ECB has made that decision. The Big Bash is being badly affected by Covid. Melbourne Stars are the worst-affected team, but they managed to cobble together an XI to take on Perth Scorchers in St Kilda today.

10 Stars players and a load of support staff tested positive, so they had to run around looking for anyone they could find for the game against the competition’s best team.

English batter Joe Clarke has been in fine form for the Melbourne Stars (Getty Images)
English batter Joe Clarke has been in fine form for the Melbourne Stars (Getty Images)

While Glenn Maxwell, Qais Ahmad, Haris Rauf and Joe Clarke were still available, the likes of Marcus Stones, Adam Zampa and Nathan Coulter-Nile were missing. Among those drafted in was the immaculately-named Lachlan Bangs, who sounds like a BBL player from Pro Evolution Cricket, had that ever existed.

Unsurprisingly, the Stars lost, although not before a third successive half-century for in-form English batter Clarke.

Broad side

Stuart Broad’s column in the Mail on Sunday is must-read. That’s no different this week.

Broad opened up on his own disappointment at playing just one Test on tour, and made “no excuses” for England’s poor performance, whilst trying to provide some context.

Stuart Broad has provided some context behind England’s Ashes struggles (Getty Images)
Stuart Broad has provided some context behind England’s Ashes struggles (Getty Images)

“This tour has taken its toll on all of us,” he wrote. “Without sounding like making excuses, we may be at the end of our mental tether with Covid.

“We are the only team that has played solid international cricket throughout the pandemic and our multi-format guys had already done 50 days in a bubble before they turned up here.”

Flying high

Weird scenes at – well, above – the SCG as England trained today. A plane flew over the grand old ground crissing and crossing to spell a word.

That word? Fjallraven: Swedish for Arctic Fox, but best known as a brand who make “durable, functional and sustainable outdoor gear”, beloved by hipsters the world over. Some kind of weird guerrilla marketing? Perhaps, although that is probably not the most “sustainable" way to spread the word.

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