Cricket: Chance to impress for Crawley

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The Independent Online
John Crawley has landed the job he wanted most this winter - and England can bank on him trying to make a real success of it. It seems certain that Crawley will walk out to bat at No 3 for next week's third Test against South Africa - but he will know exactly what another member of the squad is going through.

"Of course I've got mixed feelings," the 24-year-old Lancashire player said after being handed the position England hoped Mark Ramprakash would fill with distinction. Crawley will bat at No 3 in the four-day game against Boland starting today in Paarl - the only fixture between the second and third Tests. "You would be quite an evil person if you didn't. I'm happy to get the chance but I know exactly how Mark feels. It has happened to me."

Ramprakash has been left out following scores of nine, four and nought in his last three knocks. Although he is only 26, his future looks far from bright. England have picked him for 19 Tests over the past five years, but his average is below 17. After showing encouraging early form in South Africa Ray Illingworth, the England manager, promised him the first two Tests of the series - since when the runs have dried up.

Crawley batted at No 3 in the final Test of last summer and played well enough to take a half-century off the West Indies. But he has had failures as well, particularly in Perth earlier this year when finishing the Ashes series with a pair, and his own average of 22 after 16 Test innings urgently needs improving.

Crawley understands the problems batting first-wicket down presents but is a willing recruit. "It's my favourite position, the one I would choose," he said. "It is a vital position because you either have to act as a No 5 or as an opener, depending when the first wicket falls."

Dominic Cork, Devon Malcolm and Angus Fraser are all rested in Paarl - as is the captain, Michael Atherton. For Boland, the former England Test bowler, Phillip DeFreitas, will have more to prove than anyone following Illingworth's assertion that the World Cup door remains open.

ENGLAND (Four-day match v Boland, Paarl, starting today): A J Stewart (capt), R A Smith, J P Crawley, G P Thorpe, G A Hick, R C Russell (wkt), M Watkinson, D Gough, R K Illingworth, M C Ilott, P J Martin.