It wasn’t the size of the roles that impressed me. It was the range of strikes and the surefire way he handled periods of pressure and timing that the ball seemed to race to the limits. It was the roles that carried the hallmark of the real class.
But perhaps Chumbawamba thought he was about to achieve great things after their song Tubthumping was a huge hit in 1997. And the follow-up is not coming. Sometimes we are closer to our destination than we think.
Crowley may still have a great future at that level. He is only 23 years old and as of now, there are not many obvious flaws in his game. His technical game, anyway.
But it is clear that he is struggling for confidence. And here, after being caught off guard by a superb attacker from Neil Wagner’s previous ball (he had intended to let it go, but felt compelled to hit his racket down at the last moment as he veered towards his outgoing torso), he was drawn to prod. In the next delivery.
This time around, the ball—whether by design or natural variation—continued directly. Crowley could–and should, really–have left her. His timid shaking produced only the edge of the collar.
It was not entirely different in Lorde. While his elimination in the first innings – widely cheered – was ugly, the logic wasn’t so bad: It wasn’t a great ball. His fault was the failure to move his front foot, perhaps impatience to play himself. Had he tried to stroke it when he was 25 years old, he might have picked up on the limits. But on two? The proportions were much lower in his favour.
In the second rounds at Lords, he was restricted to half an hour running twice. That should have been good: England were fighting for a tie, after all. But it seems to have left Crowley fickle. As a result, he was too eager to shove—a paddle away in front of the pillow—into one that left him. Again, this resulted in an edge for the hoop.
These seem to be temperamental errors, not technical errors. And while this front foot’s slight reluctance to get into the line might be described as technical, it could also be a sign of the indecision of a man who doesn’t seem to fully understand his role. If management can assure him that he has time to play by himself, and that he has to earn the right to reveal the shots we all know he has, he might turn things around. Still a special talent. But, having won his original summon on the basis of potential rather than achievement, he is the one who learns his trade at the highest level. That’s hard.
All this means that, as those two hundred, he has hit 11 times in Test cricket and passed 13 times. In that period, he averaged 9.63 and lasted 23.60 balls per round. In his last six test runs, he scored only 18 times in total.
There are caveats to all of this. In India, in particular, he played on some of the toughest tracks imaginable. And any analysis of his hit in this series must admit that he has a pretty good attack.
But testing bowling attacks is always difficult. This average will not work. The England administration has to make some tough decisions. Crowley has been brought down: Can he, like Chumbawamba, rise again?
In an ideal world, he might now return to cricket to build confidence and form. But with Kent not in a championship match for more than three weeks – and only two in the next 12 weeks – his options are limited.
This is one of the most important challenges that contemporary English fighters face. This white ball window, whether it is full of T20, List A or Hundred cricket, provides little opportunity to prepare for first class cricket against a red Dukes ball. And while there are still a few long-standing specialists, most young players will have to possess whiteball skills — slopes, flicks, power — to sustain a career. Perhaps it means that their embrace of ancient virtues – a sound defensive game and the hour-by-hour experience of using it – has been toned down. There are times that appear.
It’s no coincidence that England have not produced a Specialized racket with undisputed test-level success since Joe Root. He made his debut in 2012.
Looking ahead a bit, though, you’re wondering where it fits. With Ben Stokes back, you’d think he’s competing for the pick with Crowley and Ole Pop, who looked a lot more comfortable here before they got better at trying to cut. The likes of Haseeb Hamid on this team and David Malan must be on the cusp of being called up. Time is running out to find a steady lineup before the ashes.
With a full-voice crowd and beer-snakes at Eric Hollies Stand, this was a day that really felt like returning to something close to normal. You could even say the same about the mid-turns faltering in England.
Sure enough, that first birth was in the examination area outside the torso. By the time Brassie made contact, the ball had left him and the stroke seemed loose. But this was a guy coming off a duck at first and not sure if the ball would get him in from the corner. It was a great bowling game. But hey, this is a cricket test: you will receive good shipments. This meant that Bracey had seven deliveries at this level, was knocked out by two of them and didn’t score a run.
Suffice it to say, Brassie is a much better player than he has shown in these two rounds. But Ben Fox, Joss Butler and Jonny Bairstow (all of whom have made Test centuries as England’s goalkeeper) will be available for the India Series and he may only have one role to prove himself. It can be a brutally cruel game.
One of the things this breakup should have brought up is any criticism of the opening pair. Yes, there were moments while they were standing (72 in 30 widths) when they felt like the guy at a party asking everyone to use a coaster. They are reasonable cricketers. And in the age when we’re so used to the outrageous, “reason” probably isn’t what everyone pays to see.
Sure, it would be fun if they scored faster. And sure enough, there may come a time when that run rate costs an opportunity for England to turn a tie into a win. Perhaps, at their richer playing age, they might struggle to choose.
But what should be clear by now is that England are not in a particularly strong era of red volleying. They have dozens of guys who can take the white ball game by storm. They are spoiled for choice at the top of the order, in particular.
But their test batting lineup is as crisp as candy. They need protection. They need to be careful. Sibley and Burns’ scoring pace is the least of their concerns. Crowley’s and Precy’s expulsion speed is more than just an issue.
George Dobell, chief correspondent at ESPNcricinfo