PANAJI: Opener Zak Crawley slammed a magnificent 189 off 182 deliveries and put England in commanding position against Australia as hosts were 384-4 with a vital lead of 67 runs at stumps on day two of the fourth Ashes 2023 Test at Old Trafford, here on Thursday.
With an eye on the weather in Manchester coming into play on days four and five, Crawley led England’s batting charge from the front, hitting 12 fours and a maximum to hit a sensational maiden Ashes century in just 93 balls, as Australia were left rattled by the opener’s blazing knock.
Moeen Ali justified him being slotted on number three with a knock of 54 before Mitchell Starc took him out. Crawley and Joe Root (84 off 95 balls) joined forces to hit a jaw-dropping 178 runs from 25 overs in an extraordinary show of stroke-play in the second session, as England bossed the day’s play, leaving Australia listless.
In the second session, England’s run-rate was a stunning 7.16, making it the most runs a session has seen in the ongoing series. Crawley and Root combined at the fall of Ali’s wicket, as it set the base for the match swinging in England’s favour. Root came out all guns blazing and Crawley joined in as the pace picked up.
Post lunch, the two put Australia’s attack under immense pressure with frequent hits to the fence. The double-century stand came at over run-a-ball before Crawley was eventually dismissed for 189 by Cameron Green. Root fell soon after with Josh Hazlewood’s delivery not bouncing much and castling him.
Crawley and Root stitched together a stand of 206 off just 178 balls, making it the double-century partnership with the highest recorded run-rate in Test history. There have only been six double-century partnerships recorded at over run-a-ball with Crawley himself involved in another last year in Pakistan when he and Ben Duckett put on 233 off 214 balls in Rawalpindi.
Crawley’s strike-rate of 103.85 is the second-highest in an Ashes innings of 150 or more runs. Legendary Australia wicketkeeper-batter Adam Gilchrist holds the top spot with his 152 off 143 balls at Edgbaston 2001 coming at a strike-rate of 106.29. The magnificent 189 by Crawley is also the fourth-highest score by an England opener in a home Ashes Test.
In the morning session, James Anderson dismissed Pat Cummins on the first delivery of the day before Chris Woakes got his five-for by taking out Josh Hazlewood to wrap Australia’s innings on 317.
After Ben Duckett fell early to Starc, Crawley and Ali took England to 61-1 at lunch. Ali also became the 16th men’s Test cricketer to reach the landmark of 3000 runs and 200 wickets.
Ali and Crawley’s partnership swelled post lunch to 121 before Starc took the former out. After that, Crawley and Root turned the game and momentum on its head as the crowd were treated to an enthralling display of Test cricket in the Bazball style.
After Crawley and Root fell in five overs, Harry Brook (14 not out) and Ben Stokes (24 not out) saw out the rest of the day for England to end on a commanding position.
Apart from Australia feeling the loss of Nathan Lyon much harder on day two, they will also be on the knife-edge over Starc’s fitness after he suffered a left shoulder injury while trying to stop a Brook drive at mid-on, forcing him to leave the field of play.
Brief Scores: Australia 317 (Marnus Labuschagne 51, Mitchell Marsh 51, Chris Woakes 5-62, Stuart Broad 2-68) trail England 384-4 (Zak Crawley 189, Joe Root 84; Mitchell Starc 2-74) by 67 runs