Ashes 2023: Zak Crawley has made big strides as an opener in the series, says Michael Atherton

London, July 29 (IANS) Former England captain Michael Atherton lavished praise on opener Zak Crawley for his scintillating strokeplay in the ongoing Ashes series, adding that the right-handed batter has made big strides as an opener.

Crawley is the top run-getter in the ongoing Ashes and led the charge for England’s solid first session on Day Three with 71 not out off 73 balls. His knock also includes nine fours, including one hit on England’s first ball of the second innings to set the base for the hosts’ lead to swell to 118 runs.

“Zak Crawley has played absolutely beautifully. He has had a terrific series — the top run-scorer now. And it has been a very consistent series too — just a couple of single-figure scores…and that was one of the features of his batting prior to this series, the run of low scores he was getting.”

“He has made big strides as an opener in this series — and he has made his runs attractively, scoring at a rapid click,” said Atherton to Sky Sports during lunch break.

With England resorting to their ultra-attacking approach with the bat, Atherton thinks Crawley and Ben Duckett giving the hosts a terrific start by reaching 50 in just 8.4 overs has almost ended the match for Australia.

“England just continue to rattle along. They scored 13 from the first over and, before you knew it, they had 30 off the first four and the game had almost already got away from Australia.”

“We highlighted the big team talk delivered by Cummins and Labuschagne just before the start of play, but within a few overs, things had run away from them. It was a terrific start by Duckett and Crawley.”

“I remember well as an England side when Gilchrist would come out to bat for Australia. We’d often have them five down for 150-odd and the bowlers would bowl a little bit worse at him because of that slight fear that if you get it wrong you will get clouted. Those negative thoughts are already in your head,” he added.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting feels the visitors were all over the place against England’s approach of coming out all guns blazing.

“Australia have been a bit all over the place, to be honest. I think what it has highlighted throughout the series is when you’ve got the new ball in hand, you’d better be ready to start and bowl your best delivery.”

“If you don’t — as we saw today — there is a boundary off the first ball, then 13 off the first over and the pressure is suddenly on the bowlers. That’s what England are trying to do and create. Australia haven’t been ready.”

Ponting was also impressed by Duckett, who hit 42, before being dismissed by Mitchell Starc in the first session.”I’ve been very impressed. I looked at all of the stats coming in, at how many balls he plays at, his strike rate and I wondered if that would stand up against this attack?”

“Would Australia be able to find a chink in the armour? And the answer is probably not. It’s very aggressive, sensible batting and it has wreaked havoc on the Australian opening bowlers.”

–IANS

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