Jack Crawley does not perform well consistently.
In his 70 innings as a Test cricketer, he has passed fifty only 13 times and scored a century only four times. He has been dismissed for less than 20 runs in more than half of his innings. Six of them got out for zero.
But he can do special, as all those who watched his 182-ball 189 against Australia at Emirates Old Trafford – his maiden century in 18 innings – will testify. It was a performance that had glimpses of his Test-best 267 against Pakistan at The Ageas Bowl in 2020.
Those particular innings may have come a little short for the liking of many England fans, but they are enough for the team’s hierarchy to show faith in him.
England head coach Brendon McCullum had previously said of Crawley, “For me, he’s a rare talent.” “I don’t think there are many people in world cricket who can play like him.”
Crawley has opened in every Test under McCullum and skipper Ben Stokes, adding game-changing innings to several low scores.
Apart from his 86-ball century against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in December, his brilliant innings in Manchester was one of the game-changers as England were bundled out for 500 in one day.
Crawley’s 93-ball century – the second fastest century in Manchester in Tests, after Sir Ian Botham’s 81-ball effort against Australia in 1981 – was scored during the afternoon session in which England scored 178 runs at 7.12 in 25 overs against their increasingly vulnerable opponents. Of those 178 runs, Crawley scored 106.
With play at the weekend set to be affected by wet weather, the pace at which Crawley scored his runs could prove crucial.
Keeping in mind the mindset of the team, Crawley attacked Australia from the start. He was brave and luck favored him. There were wafty drives, the inside edge of his stumps, the outside edge over the slips. LBW out was overturned on 20. It was not improbable at all.
His century had a false-shot percentage of 25, the sixth highest for any Test century since 2006. One of the centuries above him was scored by McCullum, who had a false-shot percentage of 33, when he scored a Test-record century in 54 balls against Australia in 2016.
McCullum isn’t always the most emotional on the outside, but even he must have struggled to contain his joy when one of his wards showed why he has been retained despite a Test average of under 30 and continues to talk about his place in the playing XI.
As the innings progressed, Crowley showed a full repertoire of strokes.
A flowing drive was later displayed when he collected most of the runs on the leg-side early in his innings, as Australia gifted him with several hit-me balls on the pads. We saw reverse sweeps and slog sweeps, confident whips through midwicket.
Crowley: I’m good enough for this level
Crowley said sky sports cricket: “At times I’ve been down on my luck – okay, at times – but I’ve had a lot of good shots along the way. I doubt myself but I’ve got to be who I am, keep backing my game.
“If I’m taking punts I’m going to get consistent low scores, but if I try and be more consistent I’m not going to have days like today.
“I’ve tried to be consistent and it hasn’t worked for me. That’s the way I want to do it. I think I’ve done my best and shown that I’m good enough for this level.”
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said: “Crawley’s ball-striking was excellent. I think a lot of people in English cricket know what he is capable of.”
“Yes, it’s probably gone down a bit here and there, but Stokes wants to pick guys who have special things and what Crawley has built here is very special.”
sky game Nasser Hussain said, “Crawley has had a lot of critics but England have stuck with him because they know he can play an innings like this. They want someone to put good bowlers under pressure and he did that.”
When Crawley is in this mood, he looks every inch a Test batsman.
His height and dominance over the bowlers is like that of Kevin Pietersen. He is dominating even the best bowlers – he averages almost a hundred against Pat Cummins. There may be county openers with better first-class averages than him but can either of them do what he is capable of at his best? England certainly doesn’t think so.
And, say it quietly, but there has been an element of consistency for Crawley during these Ashes. He is now the leading run-scorer in the series though mainly thanks to his Manchester daddy ton.
Prior to his 189, he had fallen for single figures only twice in six innings, with a half-century in the Edgbaston Test that would have won England if fielding errors had not been rife, and then a second innings 44 in the Headingley Test to keep the Ashes alive.
But consistency is not what he is in the team for.
McCullum said last year, “Jack’s skill is not about being a consistently good cricketer.” “He’s not that kind of player. He’s got a game that can win matches for England if it goes away.”
similar? It is possible that he will reach there. Specific? Definitely.
Watch Day 3 of the fourth Ashes Test live from the Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester sky sports cricket on Friday. The build-up starts at 10.15 am before the first ball at 11 am.