With Ben Stokes unavailable for England’s last two Tests of the summer because of family reasons and Dan Lawrence leaving England’s bio-secure bubble after a family bereavement, Zak Crawley is almost certain to return to the England XI for the second Test of their series at the Ageas Bowl.
On the most recent episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, when discussing who they would pick in the England XI for the second Test at the Ageas Bowl, the panel of Wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner, Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker and host Yas Rana debated whether Crawley, despite his presumed selection, is actually in the six best batsmen England have available to them.
Ben Gardner: The thing for me is that Zak Crawley is not a proper replacement for Stokes as a batsman. Stokes is one of the best batsmen in the world. Zak Crawley is finding his feet, Test average of 26, first-class average of 30. You can’t expect him to make up for those returns even if he’s going to be a very good player. However good Zak Crawley might be, right now, he’s not as good a batsman as Ben Stokes.
Yas Rana: If he scores fewer than 23 runs across the Test his first-class average will drop below 30. For me, however good a player he is, he shouldn’t be in the England team right now. He should be playing first-class cricket and scoring hundreds. He’s only scored three first-class hundreds. However good a player he becomes, he’ll be better off scoring runs there first. It’s just really simple, does anyone in the country think he’s in the best six best batsmen England have available now? Really?
Phil Walker: I’ve picked Crawley at three and Curran at eight with Woakes staying at seven. You do keep banging out these stats about Crawley, I’m not overly concerned about the stats. I don’t have any issue at all him being in the top six of England. I think he’s a good player. They are going on potential and I don’t have any issue with that at all. They’ve seen something in him over and above two seasons of county cricket, which, with the vagaries therein can lead to all kinds of things.
It’s not a nice place to bat down at Canterbury. They’ve seen something in him. To my untrained eye I’ve seen something in him as well. I don’t have any issue with him being in this side. He played well in the trial game. He played well in the second innings of the first Test match. In the second Test match, he got a blob, and then he was out hitting out in the second innings. That’s his last touch in Test cricket. I can see what they see in him, and I’ve looked beyond the stats.
BG: I agree that there’s lots there, lots to like. When you see certain shots, certain innings even, I can see why. But I just feel like it’s really tough on a guy to ask him to learn the art of scoring hundreds against that attack.
PW: Sure It would be an ask to bring anybody in, however old they are. Tell me if there is, is there a titan of county cricket that is being shamefully ignored to bat three for England?
BG: Well, in my opinion, it’s Gary Ballance, but that’s probably a conversation for another podcast.