Scottish Daily Mail
Zak’s back on track...
Classy Crawley lays foundations for rebuild
After everything that has gone on in Australia and, in the context of the last two years, the character and fight shown by england in drawing the fourth test was phenomenal.
Ashley Giles was emotional before the game in trying to back up his side and he was right to highlight the demands of bubble life because it should be remembered how england have kept the test show on the road during the pandemic.
They have been through a lot and have been getting hammered because of their performances in this Ashes. So to have the strength to put on this performance at 3-0 down, without half their coaching staff and with injuries to key players, is commendable.
It looked like the whitewash was inevitable when england were 36 for four in their first innings, the true low point of this tour, and england had to dig very deep to pull off the escape.
Yes, it’s only a draw and, yes, england were nine down at the close, but it was very pleasing for all england fans to finally have something to be happy about.
It should, of course be non-negotiable that every time you pull on an england shirt you give it absolutely everything you can and if you can’t win the game then you have to do everything in your power not to lose it.
They owed that to the england fans in the ground and all those watching and listening at home to show fight and character.
Again, this showed what a great game test cricket is. It is so hard to explain to someone who is not into the game that you can have a draw after five long days and end up with a batsman in Steve Smith bowling to bowlers in Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, who are trying to save the game for their country. But that’s what makes it so special.
for me the highlight yesterday was the performance of Zak Crawley. Seeing him start his innings on the fourth evening against high-quality bowlers on a pitch that had deteriorated — but maybe not as much as expected, hence the late declaration from Pat Cummins — and then come back and put the pressure back on Australia was very encouraging.
Crawley was putting away anything loose with grace, style and timing in his 77 and that fluency was great to see after all england’s, and his own, problems at the top of the order. And it showed you can’t have a top three that are purely looking to survive.
You have to counter-punch, look to be aggressive and attack these Aussies.
The better quality the bowling the more you have to go after them, as Crawley and also Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes have shown in this test. Otherwise, they will be at you all the time.
It’s odd to say that someone who averaged 10.81 last year in test cricket is worth investing in, but Crawley deserves a good run in the side again now.
I like the fact that he said before the test he was aiming to get a hundred, even though you know that when you say things like that in Australia you are going to cop it verbally from the likes of Nathan Lyon.
But Crawley is a confident lad and, when you speak to him, is also a very personable and loves the game.
Even though he still has slight technical issues he needs to address, he can look forward positively to 2022 now. He looked to be batting on a different pitch to everyone else yesterday.
HOw much will it mean to Joe root to avoid having an Ashes whitewash on his record? well, if you ask me, once the Ashes are lost it just becomes a question of trying to win every game left without worrying about the final scoreline — because every test matters.
But what this does show is that root hasn’t lost the dressing room, there is still fight in the team and there are still people who desperately want to put in a good performance. And, when he does talk to them as captain, they are still listening.
England will also know that the journey to Hobart for the final test has got easier.
When they turn up at Sydney Airport they will be getting less abuse than if it had been 4-0 — a situation where they would have been dragging their chins on the floor.
With all the injuries and with Jos Buttler going home with a fractured finger, the week ahead would have been so much worse had england failed to hang on at the SCG.
Now they can try to build on this in the final test and keep that momentum going.