ANI Photo | If I try to be consistent, I would not have days like these: England’s Crawley on century against Australia

Following his massive hundred against Australia in the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford, England opener Zak Crawley said that though his high-risk approach as a batter has caused himself some self-doubt, he encourages himself to “be me” and added that he prefers a big, impactful knock after some low scores over being more consistent.
Zak Crawley’s 189 and half-centuries by Joe Root and Moeen Ali provided 67 runs lead to England over Australia on the second day of the fourth Test match of the Ashes series here at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on Thursday. 
Right from the moment he launched the first delivery of the Ashes bowled by Aussie skipper Pat Cummins for four, Crawley has been repaying the faith shown by skipper Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum during 2021 and 2022, when he battled patchy form and inconsistency. Stokes-McCullum backed him to come good and live up to his potential, often saying that his impactful innings at the top could prove match-winning and drive England’s ‘Bazball’ approach of cricket forward, which favours aggression, positivity and hunger for a win or a result at least. 
After scoring 173 in 16 innings at an average of around 10 in 2021 and 844 in 29 innings at an average of just above 30, Crawley has shown massive improvement this year. With 518 runs in 13 innings at an average of over 42, one century and two fifties, Crawley is having a great year in red-ball cricket so far. 
He is currently the highest run-scorer in this year’s Ashes. He has scored 385 runs in seven innings of four matches at an average of 55.00 with one century and one fifty. His runs have come at a strike rate of almost 90. These numbers have surely made the hard times worth enduring. 
“Today was a good day for us. We are in a good position as a team. It was good fun. I rode my luck at times but hit some good shots along the way. I do doubt myself at times but I have to say ‘keep being me’. That is the way I play. I am quite streaky but then I go on a run. They [coach and captain] tell me to go out and have an impact at the top of the order. Sometimes I am going to have streaks of a low scores, because I am taking a punt, but thankfully today it came off,” said Crawley as quoted by ESPNCricinfo to Sky Sports. 
Last summer when he was facing low scores, McCullum defended Crawley, saying that his “skillset is not to be a consistent cricketer”. Crawley feels that criticism over consistency is fair, but he would not have days like the one at Old Trafford if he chases consistency. 
“They do not want me to lose days like today. If I try to be more consistent, maybe I would not have a day like today. I much prefer this, a few low scores and then a big one. [Criticism] is definitely fair, because I have not been consistent, but I think I have shown that, at my best, I am good enough for this level. I was pleased with how it went. That was more my template,” said Crawley. 
Crawley’s aggression against Travis Head, Aussie’s part-time spinner without their frontline star Nathan Lyon and Cummins, who went for 93 runs in his 16 overs, was a major highlight of his knock. 
“It is definitely a conscious effort to take them down, because obviously they are great bowlers who are trying to rest [between spells]. When those bowlers come on, I think it is important to put them under pressure and so that does not give them time to rest and come back. I would try to bat time and build an innings like [Joe] Root or any of those guys up there, but it is much better when I put the bowler under a bit more pressure before they can get me. Sometimes it comes off, and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. 
Despite his massive figures, his century did not look convincing to many as he inside-edged past his own stumps frequently for four and some shots just flew over the slips for four and looked close enough to be caught. Crawley feels that he has earned this luck. 
“I have had a lot of nicks over the slips this series. And actually, I do not think that is good luck. I have earned that luck. If you go harder, the ball goes over the slips. So I would rather err on that side then go negative,” he said. 
Crawley, who scored 267 against Pakistan in 2020 in a match played behind closed doors during the COVID-19 pandemic felt really happy to receive the applause from the crowd for the first time at home after a century. 
“The crowd were amazing. Obviously, I had not scored a hundred in England, apart from in Covid, so there was no one to clap me off there. But it is pretty cool to have the whole crowd clapping you off and the Aussies too, some great players there shook my hand, so that is pretty cool as well. It was an amazing feeling. You have a lot of low scores and bad form along the way. So days like today make it all worth it. I would not swap it for anything,” he said. 
When Crawley was at the crease, England racked up 178 runs in just 25 overs of the afternoon session. But once ball started to get older and softer, the innings got difficult for England. Both Root and Crawley lost their wickets to deliveries that kept low. 
“The ball definitely went soft. They were trying to change it a lot and it was definitely out of shape, which made it two-paced. Joe was so unlucky. That wicket was unplayable and even Stokesy had a couple of pop up at him and keep low. So it might be the oldness of the ball, but hopefully, it is the wicket, and hopefully, it keeps playing tricks and we bowl well [in the second innings],” said the opener. 
But before Australia, second innings, England has to build a lead and they could declare because the weather forecast for the weekend is not really promising. 
“I will leave that to the bosses up there. but if we can get another 130-140, it will be really good. It may be even just another 100, because it looks like it is going to be trickier out there at the back-end, so it could be a good chance to bowl tomorrow afternoon and hopefully get a few wickets,” he concluded. 
Coming to the match, after opting to field first, England bundled out Australia for 317 in the first innings.
Australia had finished their first day on 299/8. James Anderson (1/51) and Chris Woakes (5/62) bundled out Australia early in the day.
England in their first innings lost Ben Duckett for just one. Following this, Moeen (54) had a 121-run stand for the second wicket with Zak Crawley. Following Moeen’s dismissal, Crawley brought up his maiden Ashes ton and fourth overall in Tests. He also had a 206-run partnership for the third wicket with Joe Root before being dismissed for 189 off 182 balls, consisting of 21 fours and three sixes. Root was also dismissed soon for 84 off 95 balls, consisting of eight fours and a six.
England ended the second day at 384/4, with skipper Ben Stokes (24*) and Harry Brook (14*) unbeaten. The hosts had a 67-run lead. (ANI)

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