Crawley’s run-a-ball score of 189 takes England ahead

zak cra
Zak Crawley scored a century off just 93 balls

At Emirates Old Trafford, England roared into the lead thanks to Zak Crawley’s 189 off 182 balls, giving them hope that they can defeat a frazzled Australian team and the Manchester weather to tie the series two-all.

Ben Stokes suggested the day before this Test that England would change their tactics in accordance with the predicted cancellation of the fourth and fifth days by doubling down on their ultra-attacking style with the bat. The team defeated Australia’s first-innings 317 in just 55 overs, keeping their captain’s pledge.

And Crawley was the one who showed the way. After a poor start before lunch, he batted with complete disregard against the best seam attack in the world for the remainder of the afternoon. He flicked the opening ball of England’s innings past Alex Carey for four. His first Ashes hundred, the fourth-fastest by an Englishman, came off just 93 balls, leaving Pat Cummins and his bowlers ineffective.

England added 178 runs in 25 overs during a thrilling second session, scoring at a run rate of 7.12. Crawley tugged, drove, flicked, and slog-swept his way to three figures alongside Moeen Ali and Joe Root, both of whom struck half-centuries of their own, before accelerating over 150 after tea.

He bottom-edged a swing across the line onto his own stumps, falling 11 runs afraid of a second Test double-hundred, but at that point, he had surpassed everyone else in the series in terms of runs scored. 

It served as confirmation of England’s confidence in an opening batsman who had an average below 30 when he came at the stadium on Thursday morning but has since come to symbolize their advancement under Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

After Mitchell Starc injured his left shoulder while diving in the field, Australia was down one bowler by the close. They lacked any sort of control, and their choice to deploy a frontline spinner for the first time in a decade was exposed as a mistake, notwithstanding the wicket of Root for 84, bowled by a ball that flew through low from Josh Hazlewood.

Nevertheless, Moeen’s departure brought us to the day’s focal point. Even in ODI cricket, a double-century partnership at more than a run per ball is prized, and in this red-ball match, Joe Root and Crawley worked together to contribute 206 runs off just 178 balls. 

The run rate in the second session exceeded seven runs-per-over, while the pattern persisted for the majority of the final session up until Crawley’s expulsion. Before slicing one onto the stumps, the opener, who had just reached his first Ashes ton, appeared to be headed for a double hundred.

Even though things were somewhat soothing for Australia after Crawley’s withdrawal, Root kept upping the tempo. Josh Hazlewood’s unplayable delivery, a long length ball that went through low after pitching to topple England’s No. 4 Root, shortly caused Root to fall. 

Given the condition of the match and the fact that it was proof that the surface was displaying some variable bounce, it was the kind of dismissal that, oddly, would have pleased England more than Australia.

With a clear intention to go all-out on day three, captain Ben Stokes and Harry Brook opted to temper their approach today in order to limit further harm. Again, there were a few occurrences of inconsistent bounce, with Stokes being the frequent victim. 

With England already leading by 67 runs and six wickets remaining in the bag, this plays to their favor. With the ball adding to dubious strategies, Australia, which was lacking the presence of a specialist spinner, was generally made to seem stupid.
Brief scores: Australia 317 (Mitchell Marsh 51, Marnus Labuschagne 51; Chris Woakes 5-62) trail England 384/4 (Zak Crawley 189, Joe Root 84; Mitchell Starc 2-74) by 67 runs