England vs New Zealand: Pressure mounts on Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope to start delivering

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 (PA)
(PA)

Going into this series against New Zealand, there was a sense that Chris Silverwood would have accepted a couple of dull draws on flat pitches if it afforded his inexperienced batting order time in the middle.

England's coach and selector is very clear about how he wants England to play. In contrast to the harum-scarum Trevor Bayliss era, Silverwood wants his bowlers to earn their wickets on flat surfaces and tells his batters there is no compulsion to move anywhere fast.

Those in the latter group ooze promise. Three of the top seven are 23, one is 24 and another 25. Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope particularly look like players who should have substantial Test careers; Dan Lawrence is an unusual talent; while Dom Sibley is a limpet. In James Bracey, England have taken an opportunity to shoe-horn their spare batter into the side as a wicketkeeper.

Biosecure bubbles have afforded Silverwood plenty of time with his players over the last 12 months. He trusts them and rates them. These five filling their boots against a classy attack could help Silverwood further shape his transitional team ahead of this summer's series against India and the winter's trip to Australia. They are two five-match series that may well define his time as coach.

It would have the secondary benefit of creating the sort of tricky decisions coaches love when Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler return to face India in August.

With three of the four innings in this series down, it is not quite working out for Silverwood. The pitches have been good for batting and the weather generally good. Rory Burns has offered a timely reminder of his qualities. Sibley, who is still overcoming the broken finger that disrupted his build-up to the summer, is coming good, too. And yesterday, Lawrence produced a gem of an innings to help England navigate choppy waters.

But things are not happening for Crawley and Pope.

Crawley has an unflappable demeanour, but even he looked troubled as he walked off after a nervy four-ball duck. We have had a longer look at Pope, whose issues relate as much to temperament as technique. He is struggling to pace his batting and got greedy against Ajaz Patel yesterday. While both are still very young, they have played enough matches — 14 and 19 respectively — to perform now, not later.

Lawrence, after an awful shot at Lord's, looked set to get the chop. But his innings yesterday, which he was due to resume this morning, has strongly advanced his cause.

He was edgy early on, but he calmed. By the time the new ball was taken, he was clearly having a lot of fun and flayed some glorious boundaries.

A problem for Silverwood is that there are only a couple of rounds of County Championship action before the India series. Crawley and Pope will largely spend the intervening period smashing white balls in the Blast and Hundred. They will get another innings in this match and it is high time they delivered.

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