England batsman Zak Crawley is hoping to make his mark on Kagiso Rabada next week in Port Elizabeth, after failing to leave an impression on the South Africa paceman during his brief stint in county cricket.
Rabada took a short-term deal with Kent in 2016 to gain experience in English conditions and, while Crawley did not make his first-class debut until the following season, he had started to travel with the team.
The pair were on opposing sides during England’s 189-run win in the second Test at Cape Town, with Crawley drafted in to face Rabada’s fiery new-ball spells after fellow opener Rory Burns suffered ankle ligament damage on the eve of the match.
And it seems there was no reminiscing about life at Canterbury between the pair.
“I’m not sure he remembered me,” said the 21-year-old Crawley. “I never played with him at Kent but I was there. I was 12th man and I ran with the squad when he was there.”
Crawley was making just his second international appearance but did his best to create an impact on a man ranked as the fourth best bowler in Test cricket, hitting him for three early boundaries as he made a lively 25 in the second innings at Newlands.
It was Rabada who had the last laugh, though, having him caught behind attempting a big drive through the covers.
Far from being chastened by the experience he was enthused by it and is already eager to go one better by dominating the seamer when they reconvene for the third Test at St George’s next week.
“I loved it. It’s always great shaping up against one of the best bowlers in the world and seeing how you go,” Crawley said.
“I thought I played him OK until an average shot to a pretty average ball actually. It was a half-volley. I’m looking forward to playing him again at Port Elizabeth hopefully and taking him down.”
They might seem bold words from a rookie with just 30 runs from his first three knocks at the highest level, but Crawley was riding high after being part of England’s first win at Newlands in 63 years.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve had on a cricket field, I reckon,” he said.
“The crowd singing all five days. It was something I’ll never forget. Brilliant. You just want more and more of it. I can see why so many people work hard at this level.
“Once you get that buzz you want it every day of the week. I can’t wait for the next Test. Hopefully it’s the same again.”
Crawley’s biggest contribution to the result came in the field on the final day, first holding Quinton De Kock at short midwicket and then pulling off a memorable slip catch from Anrich Nortje – the penultimate wicket of the match.
UNBELIEVABLE hands from Zak Crawley!
— Kent Cricket (@KentCricket) January 7, 2020
Crawley initially parried the chance one-handed and then, with Dom Sibley and Dom Bess ready to pounce as they stood either side in the cordon, flung out his other hand to complete the catch.
“It lasted a lifetime. It seemed to hover in the air,” he said of the fraction of a second between his first and second touch.
“It was just a matter of sticking my hand out and luckily I managed to make it go up in the air and managed to get my other hand in it. I thought they were going to nick it off me but I’m glad they didn’t!”