Zak Crawley: I watch my 267 a lot - it should have been a springboard but I’m finally ready for Ashes impact

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Zak Crawley: I watch my 267 a lot - it should have been a springboard but I’m finally ready for Ashes impact
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  • Zak Crawley
    English cricketer (born 1998)

Zak Crawley’s young Test career has been a story of contrasts: elegant, attractive strokes — that pull in front of square — alongside ugly statistics — that first-class average of 31. There have been dizzying highs (267 in one innings) and crushing lows (268 in his next 18).

But one of the qualities England admire about Crawley is his unflappable demeanour. He has a voracious work ethic, no social media accounts or interest in what is being said or written about him, and describes himself as “a calm head” in a “really tense” changing room as England battled for their whitewash-averting draw at Sydney on Sunday.

Crawley, 23, had set England on their way, with his classy 77 that impressed even Ian Chappell, the former Australia captain who has been utterly scathing about almost everything English on this tour. Crawley loved the experience.

“I was as annoyed as I’ve ever been when I got out,” says Crawley, having been yorked by Cameron Green. “But while it lasted in the middle, it was not far off the most fun I’ve ever had on a cricket field, I absolutely loved it.”

In his second innings of 2022, Crawley looked a different cricketer to the one that averaged 11 last year. He learned from that, though, not to expect more runs to follow. He regularly watches footage of his 267 against Pakistan in 2020 to inspire him, but is also grateful for the struggles that followed.

“It’s always nice to get a score and I certainly take confidence into the next game [in Hobart on Friday], but we all know what cricket is like and I would have said the 267 was a springboard for me,” he said. “And in 2021, it certainly wasn’t a springboard.

“I watch that innings frequently when I’m going through bad form because it is a nice reminder that I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Sometimes, if you are feeling a bit rough, you can lose sight of the fact that you can play.

“I played really nicely that day but I feel like I’m a better player now and that’s because of the failures I had last year and I feel like I learned a lot about myself. Like what not to do, almost. I would have liked to score a lot more runs in 2021 but for that I’m quite thankful.

“I’ve learned a lot. Playing in India against that spin and then the other night at the MCG in that final session of the day. They’re the two hardest spells of cricket I’ve ever had, by a long way. I wouldn’t have thought that it would get much harder than those two experiences. So, you’ve just got to take them on the chin and move on and learn from them.

“That’s what I’ll try and do and cricket’s a game where you fail a lot more than you succeed. So, it’s been a good year for me to try and pick myself back up and go again. Dust yourself off and see how many times you can keep coming back and improving.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“And I feel like I have improved. I feel like I am a better player than I was a year ago. And that’s what I am going to look to do this year, become a better player than I am right now.”

How does Crawley explain his poor first-class record? How can a batter play Pat Cummins like he did in Sydney and average 31? He blames himself for not converting more fifties to centuries (five out of 27), but also subscribes to the view — shared by Joe Root, Ashley Giles and others — that Championship pitches are not up to scratch.

“I think it’s the fact I’ve batted on poor pitches really my whole Championship career,” he said. “I feel like it’s been very hard to open the batting. At my best I’ve obviously shown something the England selectors have enjoyed. So I got picked with an average of 30, which is less than normal but there aren’t too many openers averaging a lot more than that at the moment.

“The pitches have been very favourable to bowlers my whole career so far, so until that changes I feel like [the average is] a little bit lower than I’d like and that’s probably because I haven’t gone on to score big hundreds. That’s where you can boost your average a little bit. But I think 34-35 is a very good average for an opener these days and that’s very different from 10 years ago.”

I think pretty much all the grounds I’ve played on have been pretty poor.

Nasser Hussain suggested this week that Crawley should leave Kent. Of the 18 first-class HQs, Canterbury has the third lowest average runs-per-wicket for top-six batters between 2016 and 2021, at just 29.37. Crawley says he has not given a move any thought.

“I don’t think it’s a Kent thing,” he said. “Obviously, I’d like the pitch at Canterbury to be a little bit better. I don’t think it’s unfair of me to say. But I don’t think it’s just a Kent thing, I think pretty much all the grounds I’ve played on have been pretty poor.

“I can think of about two or three where I’ve got to them, thinking this is a really good wicket. So, it’d be tough for me to find somewhere a bit flatter. I think it’s more a countrywide problem and I think it will help our Test team a lot if pitches did start getting better.”

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