Speaking on Sky Sports Cricket, pundit Rob Key said he would pick Zak Crawley over Joe Denly for England’s second Test against West Indies at Old Trafford.
England face a tough decision for that game, with regular captain Joe Root set to return to his usual spot at No.4 after the birth of his second child. Denly is England’s incumbent No.3, and has been credited with helping lay the platform for the middle order by blunting the new ball. But after his soft second innings dismissal for 29, chipping the part-time off-spin of Roston Chase to short midwicket, his average sits below 30.
Crawley is an opener by trade but was batting at No.4 in this match, making the possibility of Root coming in as a straight swap seem likely. But while he made only 10 in the first innings, his 76 was England’s only second-innings score above 50, and the highest score of the match so far. He has shown a capacity to learn on the job, improving on his top score in each of his first five Test matches, and now averages two runs more per dismissal than Denly.
Key, a former Kent captain as well as an England opener, has batted alongside both Denly and Crawley in county cricket, and knows both of the pair well. He was put on the spot by co-commentator Michael Atherton to answer which of the two he would like to see retained for the second Test, but Key said the choice was a simple one.
“To be honest with you it’s quite an easy decision for me, I’d go Zak Crawley,” he said. “I’ve always thought that actually, even at the start of this game. Zak Crawley, good player.”
Atherton wondered if the near 12-year difference in age between the pair could prove decisive. “A big factor will be age, not that age is a defining factor,” Atherton said. “But you’d have to think that there’s immeasurable improvement ahead of Crawley. But at 34, maybe not for Joe Denly.”