Zak Crawley reduces Aussies to a rain-dancing rabble with stunning 187 as England close in on tying Ashes series

AS the Bazball revolution reached its high tide, here was a reminder that this England regime isn’t all about breathless ultra-aggression.

Another key principle of captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum is their consistency of selection and unswerving faith in talent.

Zak Crawley scored a stunning 187 runs on day twoRichard Pelham / The Sun

Zak Crawley arrived at Old Trafford with a Test average of 28.6 and a  reputation as a wasteful scorer of glorious cameos, having faced prolonged calls for his head.

But Stokes and McCullum had a gut feeling about Crawley.

Perhaps they always imagined that, an hour before stumps on a critical day in an epic series, Crawley would walk off to a standing ovation having served up one of the great Ashes innings of modern times.

Here was the calculated and  controlled aggression which England’s batsmen had been struggling to produce in this series until now.

As Crawley, Moeen Ali and Joe Root peppered the boundary ropes, at around seven runs an over, barely a smile passed their lips.

There were just steely glares, which belied the idea that Bazball prioritises entertainment over results. Here were men at work, carrying out that most serious of business: beating Australians at cricket.

It was reminiscent of the way Steve Waugh’s po-faced team used to grind the Poms into the dirt during their long reign of Ashes terror.

And as a ragged bunch of fielders were strewn across the outfield like outback roadkill, it was the day every English cricket fan had craved since Pat Cummins and Alex Carey caused a near-riot at Lord’s by concocting the shameless ‘stumping’ of Jonny Bairstow.


Here was karma. Here was payback, courtesy of Crawley’s savage majesty, with able support acts from Moeen and Root, who shared century stands with the fair-haired, 6ft 5in opener.

With a 2-1 deficit behind them and a gloomy Mancunian weather forecast ahead, England simply had to rattle up a massive score at Godspeed on the second day of this Fourth Test.

And it was Crawley who propelled Stokes’ side past Australia’s first-innings 317 with a magnificent 189 at quicker than a run-a-ball — the highest score by an English batsman in a home Ashes Test this century.

Crawley scored a century inside a session between lunch and tea.

The last two English batsmen to achieve that feat in Ashes combat were Stokes at Headingley in 2019 and Ian Botham at the same ground in 1981.

And testaments to the high class and extreme speed of Crawley’s knock do not come any better.

GettyAustralia were reduced to a rain-dancing rabble by Zak Crawley[/caption]

When England went two-down at Lord’s, Stokes spoke confidently of his team’s ability to fight back and win this series.

At the time, it sounded fanciful, or delusional, depending on the generosity of your spirit.

Not any more. After a tense, successful run chase at Headingley, England now hold a truly dominant position for the first time in this series — after reaching 384-4, a lead of 67.

A wash-out is forecast for tomorrow and further rain on Sunday, but if they can conspire with the heavens to win this, the momentum would be theirs heading to The Oval next week.

England had rapidly wrapped up the Aussie tail in the morning.

Cummins perished to the first ball, then Chris Woakes twice had Josh Hazlewood caught at slip — firstly off a no-ball, then to complete his first five-wicket Ashes haul.

GettyPat Cummins and his side were frustrated by England’s batting display[/caption]

Ben Duckett edged Mitchell Starc behind from the 13th ball of the innings.

But then the remarkable Moeen — who had reversed his retirement from Test cricket after an injury to Jack Leach then promoted himself to No 3 in the batting order after an injury to Ollie Pope — justified both decisions with a vital half-century.

Before lunch, England were unusually cautious — and Crawley was adjudged lbw to Cameron Green for 20, only for DRS to show the ball was missing leg stump.

After the interval, Crawley and Moeen surged into full flow.
Moeen played a majestic cover drive off Cummins, then Crawley reverse-swept Travis Head to the boundary to move to his half-century and followed it with a slog-sweep for six to bring up the 100 partnership.

Cummins — suffering a horror show as captain, bowler and fielder — dropped Moeen shortly before the all-rounder pulled Starc to midwicket for 54.

Root, though, arrived with great  purpose, immediately pulling Starc to the boundary.

GettyZak Crawley inspired England as they took control of the fourth Ashes Test[/caption]

Crawley was peaking now, climbing into Hazlewood’s bowling then exploding into the 90s by slashing Starc over the slips, followed by a crunching cover drive.

He reached his fourth Test century — and his first against the Aussies — with a two through the covers but his  celebrations were short. He wasn’t close to being done.

Root reverse-ramped Mitchell Marsh for a maximum, then Crawley hammered Head for six as Australia’s decision not to select a front-line spinner at the venue of Shane Warne’s ‘Ball of the Century’ began to look clownish.

England had scored 178-1 in the afternoon session — then when Hazlewood bowled a maiden at Crawley, the opener changed his bat in disgust.

GettyZak Crawley was finally dismissed by Cameron Green[/caption]

The Aussies were utterly ragged, summed up by Cummins having a decent leg-before shout against Root only to be called for a no-ball.
When Crawley contemptuously smashed Marsh over long-on for six, England were in front.

He chopped on to Green soon after and Root perished to a horrible grubber from Hazlewood, 16 runs short of a century.

But the damage had been done, England were in charge.

And the Aussies were reduced to a rain-dancing rabble.

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