By no means was England youngster Zak Crawley's half-century devoid of blemishes. His fizzled attempt at whipping Roston Chase to mid-wicket had produced an ungainly leading edge that evaded the back-pedalling cover fielder by a hair's breadth. And, despite the pitch lurking demons of invariable bounce and the off-spinner ripping the cherry into him, Crawley chanced his arm at frequent intervals with the death-or-glory reverse-sweep like an adrenaline junkie.
Nonetheless, frolicking through the close shaves and hit-and-miss endeavours, England's incumbent number four delivered the goods to repay the selectors' faith.
Crawley might bear a passing resemblance to an angelic choirboy who'd first thing exchange pleasantries with religious aficionados, but it's when you hear the gunshot crack of his willow on leather that the penny drops.
His stroke-making prowess runs the gamut from chiselled straight-drives to wristy flicks and handsy backfoot punches. And with England staring down the barrel of another gut-wrenching fiasco, Crawley unfurled from his repertoire many such nuggets of exuberance.
The long levers were deployed to maximum effect as Crawley, at the very mention of flight, put his dancing shoes on and pummeled Chase over mid-on's head. The vigorous statement of intent worked to his liking.
Jason Holder was beguiled into the defensive mode and stationed personnel on the boundary line. The thirty-yard circle now steered clear of impediments, Crawley traded singles while also sneaking brisk doubles nurdling the tweaker into the vacant pockets of land.
Zak Crawley relishes pace to power England along
Crawley's natural finesse against pace bowling meant the scoreboard ticked along at a velocity rather unbeknownst to five-day games. He would present the manufacturer's name and invariably find the rope whenever Kemar Roach or Jason Holder overcompensated with reference to their lengths. Shannon Gabriel hurled some chin music too but Crawley, always an instinctive puller, rocked on to the backfoot and poured cold water on those futile tactics.
"As soon as Ben got out it was clear I had to try and bat through to the end. To get out the next over was extremely disappointing. Hopefully, if I get another chance I can do better. If we can get above a 200 lead it will give us a great chance to win the game. The pitch was offering a bit with up-and-down bounce. We've definitely got the bowlers to take 10 wickets.", Crawley reckoned of his boisterous knock which swung the pendulum in England's favour, albeit moderately.
Notwithstanding their deep-seated opening conundrum which finally seems being headed towards resolution as Dom Sibley and Rory Burns click in unison, England's middle-order has, for the previous three seasons, borne more holes than swiss cheese.
Crawley's robust presence will, for sure, alleviate the encumbering burden on England skipper Joe Root besides furnishing Ben Stokes and Jos Butler the desperately-needed liberty to channelize their belligerence without having to lose sleep over the repercussions that follow. Joe Denly, who squandered for the umpteenth time an inspiring headstart, and is already on the wrong side of thirty, might prove the sacrificial lamb going ahead into the series.
It'd be foolhardy to get drunk on superlatives and label the twenty-two-year-old, who isn't a finished product by any stretch of the imagination, a future superstar. Though given his seamless transition from domestic to the international circuit, not many would deny the proposition that in Crawley, England have unearthed an absolute gem.