Zak Crawley’s epic 267 against Pakistan was one of the top 10 innings by English batsmen… but England’s newest Test star does not want to go down as a one hit wonder
- Zak Crawley hit a sensational 267 against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl this year
- The Kent batsman has been in good form since then at both Test and T20 level
- The 22-year-old is determined not to be a one-hit wonder in his England career
- Crawley is aiming to earn a Test central contract to secure his England spot
A month on from the innings that changed his life, Zak Crawley is daring to think about the future. He has plans, of course he does: an ECB Test contract would be nice, so too a place in England’s powerful white-ball teams.
Above all, though, he knows what he doesn’t want to do: rest on the laurels of his epic 267 against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl – an innings that propelled him into the hallowed list of top ten scores by English Test batsmen.
And it really is hallowed: Crawley’s is only the third innings from the last 55 years to feature on it, after Graham Gooch’s 333 at Lord’s in 1990 and Alastair Cook’s 294 at Edgbaston in 2011, both against India.
Zak Crawley had the innings of his career with an epic 267 against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl
A less grounded character than Crawley might feel overwhelmed by the weight of history. But, even at the age of 22, he appears to have things in proportion.
‘Some of the players on that list are truly great,’ he says. ‘I don’t see myself anywhere near where they are, so to be on it is very humbling.
‘But I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. Hopefully I can get a few more scores in the future and not waste the talent I’ve been given.’
It’s to his credit that the comment doesn’t sound remotely arrogant – wisely so, because lurking deep in the record books is a warning.
Not many have heard of Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster, the only England batsman whose maiden hundred was higher than Crawley’s. But that’s partly because after making 287 on Test debut at Sydney in 1903-04, Foster never reached three figures again.
Then there’s the experience of Crawley’s friend and mentor Rob Key, who hit 221 against West Indies at Lord’s in 2004 – his only Test ton, single or double. The subject brings out Crawley’s inner diplomat.
‘Rob was a phenomenal player, and I’d love to be as good as him one day. I do think he was extremely unlucky in his career. As Andrew Flintoff has said, he was probably the best player never to play 100 Tests for England.’
England’s newest star is out to make sure that he is not a one-hit wonder at Test level
Crawley is mentored by former England cricketer and Sky Sports pundit Rob Key (above)
It’s hard to imagine Crawley suffering the same fate as Foster and Key. And, having already being dropped, he is not about to give the selectors another excuse.
He had made nought and 11 as England’s new No 3 against West Indies in Manchester in July, and was then left out for two games because Ben Stokes injured his thigh and had to play as a specialist batsman. In came an extra bowler – and out went Crawley.
Had Stokes not flown to New Zealand after the first Test against Pakistan to be with his dad, Ged, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, Crawley’s second opportunity might not have arisen at all.
‘After that Test match at Old Trafford… I don’t want to say I was low, but I was very disappointed to be dropped, and I did feel like maybe I wouldn’t be playing any more Test cricket in the summer,’ he says. ‘I got an opportunity in quite unfortunate circumstances, with Ben having to go home, and thankfully I took advantage.’
Crawley (right) was boosted by Ben Stokes’ (left) absence from the later Pakistan Tests
If a regret lingers, it’s that he fell short of becoming England’s first triple-centurion since Gooch, when he was finally stumped off the part-time off-spin of Asad Shafiq.
Had 300 been on his mind? ‘It actually wasn’t, until I got to 250 – and then I played quite a big shot. Jos [Buttler] came down to me, and said: “You’re not far from 300 here, keep going.” And so I tried to go again, but unfortunately got out. I probably should have knuckled down a bit more and gone for it, because I’m not sure how many more opportunities I’ll have to get 300.’
It’s the kind of regret most Test batsmen would settle for, but the good news is that a return to the county ranks has not robbed Crawley of his edge.
He scored 335 runs at 41 – including an unbeaten century against Hampshire – as Kent progressed to the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast, while his strike-rate of 158 was the club’s highest. And he made another hundred, also against Hampshire, in the Bob Willis Trophy.
Crawley is in good form for Kent and hit a century in the Bob Willis Trophy against Hampshire
If anything, the Test double-century has galvanised an inner belief that needed a boost when, a year ago, he was selected for England’s tour of New Zealand armed with a modest first-class average of 30.
‘I certainly feel more confident in myself,’ he says. ‘I was picked in Test cricket as a prospect, rather than on my stats, so I can imagine a few people round the country – not that I pay too much attention to what people think –saying: “Is he any good?”
‘You always have doubts and you try to put on a brave face, stick your chest out. But I heard Alastair Cook say that even going into his last few games he had doubts. So I’m glad to get that score in Test cricket and warrant that gig. I always believed in myself. But hopefully people can see that I can play a bit.’
Crawley wants to earn a Test central contract to make him an England player permanently
The innings had another important benefit. As an ambassador for the Lord’s Taverners charity, Crawley has been sponsored through its Runs for Change initiative to the tune of £4.80 a run.
The 267 alone netted the charity nearly £1,300; with the help of others, including England women’s captain Heather Knight, the Taverners hope to finish the summer with a five-figure sum.
So what next for Crawley? First comes Thursday’s T20 quarter-final against in-form Surrey at The Oval, where he will get the chance to show off his prowess against the white ball. Playing limited-overs cricket for England, he says, is ‘definitely a goal of mine’ – though he acknowledges it is not an easy team to get into.
Then there’s the aim of winning a Test central contract, with everything that comes with it, both financially – each one is worth almost £700,000 – and psychologically: ‘To be an England player officially would be great.’
Crawley’s Kent Spitfires take on Surrey in the T20 quarter-final at the Oval on Thursday
Despite all that, Crawley doesn’t want to get ahead of himself – not easy when the claustrophobic nature of this biosecure summer meant the expert analysis was more searching than ever, and the cleanliness of his strokeplay praised to the hilt.
It’s revealing, perhaps, that he is not on Twitter – uniquely among his England team-mates. And, so far, his deliberate distance from the noise of social media has stood him in good stead.
‘I think I’m better off it. There are pros: some guys use it well. For me, personally, the cons of what you might see on there outweigh the pros. The time spent on your phone might drain your energy or take away from other things I might do. I just want to stay on the straight and narrow, and it might pull me away from that.’
English cricket should feel grateful for this old head on young shoulders.
Lord’s Taverners ambassador Zak Crawley is supporting the fundraising challenge of Lloyd Scott to complete the famous 3 Peaks Challenge dressed in a 130lb deep-sea diving suit starting on October 4. Visit www.lordstaverners.org to make a donation.
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