ak Crawley says his standout innings in Sydney during the last Ashes series in Australia gave him the confidence to take on the world’s best attack this summer – but admits even he did not think he would end up England’s leading run-scorer.
Crawley came into the series under huge scrutiny having flattered to deceive at the top of the order since being backed to open by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum at the start of their tenure.
In 26 Tests between his remarkable 267 against Pakistan in 2020 and the start of the Ashes, Crawley averaged just 23. Last summer, he passed fifty only once, in the second innings of the final Test against South Africa at the Oval.
These Ashes, however, marked something of a coming of age for the Kent man, who topped England’s run charts with 480 at an average of 53 and made the series’s highest score with his brutal 189 from just 182 balls at Old Trafford.
“I’d say it was quite unlikely!” Crawley laughed of the idea of being England’s leading batter coming into the series. “I’ve always believed in myself, so I knew I had some good knocks in me. But I’d say it was unlikely.”
Crawley delivered the series’s first standout moment from the very first ball, crunching Australian captain Pat Cummins through cover for four, and then repeated the trick to Mitchell Starc at the start of his final innings at the Oval.
“I was trying to leave a statement,” Crawley said. “The one second innings [at the Oval], for sure, wherever that was, I was going to trying to hit that one.
“I just like to get off to a good start and other times I think it’s not quite there and I’ll get those singles which were on offer. I just want to get off to a good start and put them under pressure.”
While Crawley was a much-maligned figure in English cricket coming into the series, he had already impressed Australian watchers with a commanding 77 off 100 balls in the Fourth Test of the 2021/22 Ashes, one of few highlights during England’s doomed tour.
The 25-year-old showed his potential for taking on the high pace of the likes of Starc and Cummins during that knock and had particular success against Australia’s frontline seamers this summer.
“Before this series, that was the best knock I’ve ever played,” Crawley added. “It gave me a lot of confidence that under the pressure of fast bowling, that could bring out the best in me.
“It gave me confidence and to have a look at their bowlers. I had a bit of an idea how I wanted to play them before this series so that certainly helped as well.
“I feel like I think less against fast bowling, I don’t have time. You just see the ball and react and I think that suits my game a bit more. Hopefully, it stays that way for a while.”
In Crawley and Ben Duckett, England appear to have their most settled opening partnership since Sir Alastair Cook and Sir Andrew Strauss, the duo excelling since being brought together by Duckett’s Test recall ahead of last year’s tour to Pakistan.
A right-hand, left-hand combination and the pair’s contrast in heights and styles have proven a nightmare for bowlers and while Duckett averaged only 36 across the series, the Nottinghamshire batter, like Crawley, was successful in putting Australia’s attack under immediate pressure.
“Baz was always talking, before we even got together, about how much we’ll suit each other,” Crawley added. “We always talk about that and it works really nicely.
“He’s such a good player, puts away the good balls, let alone bad balls so well. You’re always getting on strike with him as well. I love batting with him.”