Daily Mail - 2021-06-11


Scrambled brain leads to horror show for Crawley

England V New Zealand 2nd Test


People will wonder how Zak Crawley can go from that magnificent double hundred against Pakistan last summer to where he is now. And what he has now is a scrambled brain. It’s the thing that is most easy to forget when you finish playing — how scrambled you get when you are out of nick and scratching for runs. Crawley’s dismissal to Neil Wagner came with the shot of a man who is struggling mentally, not technically. Yes, Crawley (below) has made a couple of changes from last year when he had a little trigger movement to get his feet going and align himself before receiving the ball. Yesterday — as has been the way in this series so far — there was no trigger or tap and his left foot is not coming across towards the ball. But the real issue is that he got out twice at Lord’s to big loose drives and he arrived here, as a naturally attacking batsman, not knowing whether to stick or twist. Wagner put it there and said ‘go on, drive if you want’ and Crawley’s eyes lit up before he remembered how he got out last week. He got caught between two stools. His three dismissals against New Zealand have been a horror show and when you are under pressure, as Crawley is now, the brain does some funny things to you. Crawley will certainly be under pressure in the second innings here, with Ben Stokes due to come back and someone having to give way in the series against India. And the more desperate you get for runs the more you can become tense and go searching for the ball. Especially when the game and the next innings are so important. A lot of these England batsmen have strong bottom-hand grips and, while Crawley is more conventional than some, I did notice when I first saw him in South Africa that, when under pressure, his bottom hand does take over a bit. All he needed to do yesterday was watch Dan Lawrence, who also played a bad shot at Lord’s, to realise that as pressure eases those hands become softer and mental and technical issues can disappear. So what Crawley has to do now is study footage of that 267 at the Ageas Bowl, try to blank those three dismissals out and get that brain unscrambled. He has to be as natural as possible but it’s not easy to change in the middle of a Test. He is still a good player, he’s still worth England investing in, and after this Test he can go back to Kent and have some fun in whiteball cricket. That will be a good way for Crawley to free himself up and go and get some runs. The only saving grace for him is who else is going to bat three in that five-Test series in August and September? Joe Root doesn’t want to bat there and James Bracey, seen as an option before this series, has two ducks in two innings. I felt for Bracey. His reaction when he got out first ball told you everything you need to know about the difference between Test and county cricket. He’s probably leaving that ball from Trent Boult 99 times out of 100 if he was playing for Gloucestershire. But in a big Test in front of a big crowd he too has gone searching because he wanted to put bat on ball. Cricket really does get to you. Two weeks ago Bracey probably felt as good about his game as ever but now he’s in the spotlights and he gets two ducks, it’s a very different story. You could see he wanted the ground to swallow him up. England’s openers played well in the first session but because they bat at a modest tempo and because they have a long tail in this match New Zealand always seemed to be in control. It never got away from them, especially with the ball swinging. Rory Burns will be disappointed with the way he got out, but played really well and he has been lining the ball up nicely in this series. Burns has his own funky technique but when the ball is released he is in a good position and he is obviously very strong mentally. He’s a real street-fighter.



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