Sunday People

QUALITY STREAK Pope tips Crawley for blistering run of form

- By Neil Moxley by Richard Edwards by Gary Fitzgerald

OLLIE POPE believes it is quality as much as quantity as far as Zak Crawley is concerned – and is adamant the opener will prove himself an Ashes match-winner.

England’s vice-captain has given his colleague a big thumbsup ahead of a series which could prove to be make or break for the Kent batter.

After being promoted to the senior side at the end of 2019, Crawley averages 28 and his is the one spot in Ben Stokes’ line-up that has come under the spotlight.

However, Pope – who grew up playing against Crawley on the Surrey junior scene – insists his pal delivers when it matters.

He said: “Zak has come into the side after Alastair Cook – what a legend of the game he was and he averaged 40-odd.

“So there’s probably a bit of a stereotype around that – you must bat in a certain way and average about that number.

“Zak and I have chatted about it openly – and he won’t mind me saying – but there have been times when he’s not scored the weight of runs he’s wanted.

“But there have been times when he’s played some knocks for England that have gone under the radar. For instance, against South Africa at Manchester last year he scored 30-odd – it was quite a slow score for him – but the way he played and in those tough conditions it set up the game.

“That allowed Ben Foakes and Ben Stokes to get their hundreds and win it for us.

“Again, against India last year he scored 50-odd and that allowed Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow to kick on and chase down a massive total.

“Being an England opener in English conditions is about as hard as it gets.

“But again, he can deal with it.

CHRIS TREMLETT knows what it is like to hand the Aussies a thrashing.

He was part of the England side that hammered the old enemy 3-1 to seal a first Ashes triumph on Australian soil in a generation in 2010/11.

Tremlett (right) was also part of the England squad that enjoyed that golden summer of 2005.

Now, on the eve of another Ashes battle, he gets the sense that something special could be about to unfold again.

Tremlett said: “England playing so


He can deal with 90mph bowling at his head – he did it at the Sydney Cricket Ground last year – and he sets his ceilings very high. That’s probably because he’s so tall!

“But he’s got the ability to blast 100 from 100 balls. He can do that against Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Scott Boland and the rest of them.

“And he won’t be fazed. He is exciting. He might start poorly in the first innings.

“In the space of one session, he can take the game away from any side on the planet or break the back of a run chase.”

Pope, who could end up running the show if Stokes’ knee problems continue, said that the summer should not be seen as a watershed moment for ‘Bazball’.

He believes the group of players who have turned around the fortunes of English cricket should not be discarded if Australia retains the little urn.

The Surrey right-hander added: “Just because it is an Ashes series, it doesn’t have to be make or break.

“There’s obvious pressure. We are facing one of the best teams in the world in our home conditions.

“We’re all desperate for everyone to do well.

“If it doesn’t go to plan, what we have done as a team over the last year shouldn’t be forgotten.


“So it’s not make or break for anyone. You might be averaging 30-odd but you’ve scored a ton and that might be the match-winning score.

“You could be in a position where that game – potentiall­y – might win us The Ashes, so I think it’s not necessaril­y about the statistics.

“They look after themselves over a long period of time and with a small sample of Tests you don’t always get an exact representa­tion of how a player has played.”

MOEEN ALI will be targeted by a bunch of “aggressive, attacking” Aussies out to damage his confidence and composure on his big return to the England firing line.

Former England star

Monty Panesar is fully behind the decision by captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon Mccullum to lure

Ali out of Test retirement because he is a tried and trusted spin replacemen­t for injured Jack Leach.

However, he also warned Ali to expect some ferocious treatment from David Warner, Steve Smith and Co when he comes on to bowl his first deliveries back in the Test fold at Edgbaston.

Panesar said: “The Aussie batsmen always look to aggressive­ly attack the spinner England select. They attempt to dominate him and put him under pressure straight away.

“They know if they can knock the spinner out of the attack England will need to give extra spells to the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, who would bowl longer with third or even fourth spells, putting more mileage in their legs as The Ashes goes on.

“It would have been the case whether Jack Leach was playing or not. The spinner has to relish the challenge and not shy away from that Australian aggression.

“Losing Leach was good news for Australia because he would have been a huge threat. But Moeen is a good

 ?? ?? BENCHMARK: Ollie Pope is backing pal Zak Crawley
MIGHTY MO: Spin king Moeen Ali will be under pressure
BENCHMARK: Ollie Pope is backing pal Zak Crawley MIGHTY MO: Spin king Moeen Ali will be under pressure
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