Crawley ready for the challenge

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The Independent Online
John Crawley faces his toughest challenge yet after forcing himself back into England's Test team. One by one, the Lancashire batsman has tackled problems which were threatening to keep him among international cricket's also-rans.

He is fitter than ever before, having lost a stone in weight since last winter's Ashes tour of Australia. He is quicker and more agile in the field after following a rigorous training routine. His technique at the crease appears much tighter, with a heavy emphasis on playing straight and thereby eliminating as many risks as possible.

But now all that hard work is about to be given its sternest examination over five days at Kingsmead as England and South Africa meet in the third Test which could shape this winter's five-match series.

For Crawley, though, the real task starts here. Barring a last-minute change of mind, the 24-year-old will bat at No 3 - a position made available once more by Mark Ramprakash's failure under pressure. "If they are good enough they can do it," Ray Illingworth, the chairman of selectors, said when asked whether it was wise to entrust such a key position to the squad's most inexperienced batsman - and one, who after nine Test appearances, averages only 22.

"John has worked very hard on his fitness and his fielding since last winter. It has been a tremendous effort. And, as a batsman, when he gets in he's got great concentration."