'He plays shots I could only dream of': Alastair Cook spots shades of Sehwag in England's Zak Crawley amid Ashes heroics

By, New Delhi
Jul 26, 2023 02:03 PM IST

Admiring his shots and approach, Cook saw shades of former India opener Virender Sehwag - who was quite the trendsetter in his own right - in Zak Crawley.

Amid the star-studded list comprising Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Joe Root and Ben Stokes, Zak Crawley has captured the imagination quite like no other at the Ashes 2023. The England opener has been around since 2019 but it wasn't until now that one can say he truly has come to the fore. Crawley has always been full of promise, so much so that his figures barely looked half-impressive when he was called up to play for England at 21 years of age, but with the ECB and England team management's continuous faith, Crawley, after 38 games, has set the stage on fire… and how? By emerging as the leading run-scorer of the biggest Test series of all time.

Alastair Cook (M) has noticed similarities in Zak Crawley (L) and Virender Sehwag's batting.(Getty)
Alastair Cook (M) has noticed similarities in Zak Crawley (L) and Virender Sehwag's batting.(Getty)

Crawley began the Ashes with a flamboyant 61 in the Ashes opener in Birmingham and followed it with a crisp 48 at Lord's. And while both were equally quality knocks, the impact got lost with Australia taking a 2-0 lead. At Headingly, Crawley got starts in both innings with 33 and 44 but couldn't cash in although he was content with the bigger picture – England pulling one back at keeping the Ashes alive – one could sense Crawley was going to take off just about any time now. It took nine days to be precise, and he launched, en route to producing an extraordinary knock of 189 off 182 balls in Manchester. With England riding on the high of Bazball, no one embodied it like Crawley.

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As the 25-year-old burst through the Australian bowling line-up, Crawley's innings was termed 'extraordinary' by former England captain Alastair Cook. Admiring his shots and approach against Australia's quality seam attack comprising – Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Mitchell Starc – Cook saw shades of former India opener Virender Sehwag, who was quite the trendsetter in his own right. Sehwag's fearless attitude and charisma not only fetched him the distinction of scoring 2 triple-centuries but also changed the manner in which openers took to batting in Tests. Years later, Crawley is following the same method and Cook couldn't be any happier.

"I think the way Zak Crawley has played in this series. That knock was a special knock. To score 189 out of 182 balls against the quality of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins I think is extraordinary. I think that potential is why Ben and Brendon have stuck with him. He plays shots which no one else can play as an opener in the world. You can compare a little bit of Sehwag in terms of the ability to take frontline bowlers down. It's actually unique and when he does have his day, he changes games. That's why he's been backed so hard by the England leadership and they got rewarded for it," Cook said during a media interaction arranged by Sony Sports Network.

Cook in awe of Crawley's strokeplay

Cook was correct in his assessment – albeit only to a certain extent as Crawley's knock did lay a perfect foundation for England to get back on level terms, and this was after Australia posted 317 in their first innings. In fact, Crawley has joined Sehwag in a list of batters with highest Test score at faster than a run a ball. Having said that, unlike Sehwag, who went after the bowlers right from the word go, Crawley started cautiously before completing his half-century with an elegant reverse sweep against Travis Head.

Crawley's strokeplay lifted his confidence even further as he took just 26 balls to smash his second 50 of the innings. Cameron Green eventually brought the show to an end but by the time Crawley was dismissed, he had added 206 runs with Joe Root for the third wicket, and handed England the lead. Crawley's knock featured 21 fours and three maximums. Some of his shots were so neat that Sir Cook wasn't ashamed of dishing out this wonderful compliment which Crawley would cherish his entire life.

"I mean he plays shots that I could only dream of and it was an extraordinary innings," Cook, England's second-most successful Test captain pointed out.

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