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The Ashes: Zak Crawley misses chance to feast on Australia attack on perfect day for batting at Lord's

Zak Crawley cracks five fearsome boundaries on his way to a run-a-ball 48 at the top of the order for England before falling to Nathan Lyon, stumped; watch day three of the second Ashes Test from Lord's on Friday, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.15am (first ball 11am)

Zak Crawley bats during the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston (PA Images)
Image: England opener Zak Crawley hit 48 on day two of the second Ashes Test at Lord's

As England boldly batted their way back into the second Ashes Test on day two at Lord's, Zak Crawley - who helped build the platform from which to launch - again failed to truly cement his role in the side.

When Brendon McCullum was brought in as head coach in May of last year, Crawley was expected to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the bold new approach adopted by England which was soon to be christened 'Bazball'. And nobody has given the shot-making opener greater backing.

Speaking to Sky Sports last year, with Crawley in the midst of averaging 14.50 in the series win over New Zealand, McCullum said: "To me he's a rare talent and I don't think there's too many people in world cricket that can play like he does.

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We look at the emergence of 'Bazball' under the leadership of Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes.

"He's never going to be a consistent type of cricketer. He's that dynamic that he's not going to be consistent. But when he has his day, he's going to win matches."

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But Crawley's 'days' in an England shirt have been too few and far between.

There was his famous 267 struck against Pakistan in the 2020 summer that hinted at such a hugely promising career, but there have been just two further tons scored in his 28 Tests since - in the West Indies and Pakistan last year, either side of his summer slump.

And it's too often feast or famine with Crawley.

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Sky Sports' Nasser Hussain said of Crawley on day one: "The last Test [Edgbaston] summed up Crawley a little bit. When it was a good time to bat, he looked a million dollars [scoring 61].

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Watch as Zak Crawley hammered the first ball of the Ashes series for four off Pat Cummins at Edgbaston.

"Second innings, when there was the rain delay and it just started to nip around, he nicked off and got out [for seven].

"Andrew Strauss when he was an opening batter, I bet you he averaged 42 when the ball was not doing too much and when it was nipping around he averaged 38.

"With Zak, when it's not moving around, he'll get a double-hundred and when it is, he'll nick off for 10.

"That inconsistency, the gap, it's too far apart."

Lord's was supposed to provide a true stress test of that theory and Crawley's ability to score tough runs against a highly-skilled attack, on a green seamer in overcast conditions - and with the added scoreboard pressure of Australia's first-innings 416 on the board.

Instead, on Thursday, he was presented with a pitch seemingly at its best for batting, under the baking sun and against an Australian bowling group far from its best - particularly the leaky Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood (before their short-pitched success later in the day).

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The best of the action from day two of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.

As mentioned, when faced with such circumstances, there are not many players who make batting look easier, as demonstrated by Crawley's eye-catching run-a-ball 48 and, specifically, his five fours crunched to the boundary after lunch.

There was a sumptuous on-drive off Pat Cummins. The hardest shot in the book against arguably the best bowler in the world right now.

Back-to-back boundaries were boshed either side of the wicket in one Starc over and another beautiful on-drive was unfurled against Hazlewood, while he also emphatically pulled the seamer away to the fence.

And then he got out, stumped off Nathan Lyon, two short of a half century. Much like in Birmingham when well-set on the first morning, Crawley couldn't cash in.

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Zak Crawley was the first wicket to fall for England as he was stumped just two short of his half-century.

Even if we're to buy into the 'feast or famine' inconsistencies of Crawley, then pretty 48s aren't sufficient on the good days when he should be booking in for bed and breakfast.

The England opener said it himself when speaking to Sky Sports' Michael Atherton ahead of the second Test: "What Baz sees in me is someone who can get those big highs and can take the game on. That fits into this team well.

"The best I can be is myself and that's play an aggressive game. When I come off, hopefully I can win games and score big hundreds for England."

Crawley will continue to be backed. He will continue to look good when conditions are at their best. But he needs a sizeable score to truly cement a spot in this England side and to deliver on his role as match-winning maverick at the top of the order.

Another golden opportunity to do so has passed him by.

Watch day three of the second men's Ashes Test at Lord's live on Sky Sports Cricket on Friday. Coverage starts from 10.15am with the first ball at 11am. Also stream on NOW TV.

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