Cricket: Crawley gives a batting master class

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 185 and 296-1 Hampshire 172

IN A CHAMPIONSHIP match that had been dominated by the bowlers John Crawley hit a magnificent, firecracker of a double-century to restore Lancashire's command while they had to listen, all day, to ominous news from The Oval.

For three years Crawley has hinted that he could become the best of England's batsmen; now, a few days from his 27th birthday, he has amassed eight centuries in the season, a record only Cyril Washbrook and Winston Place have surpassed since the war.

This memorable innings, the last of the summer wine, taking him passed 1,800 runs, needs perspective. Fifteen wickets fell on the first day, on a pitch that was expected to turn. Lancashire failed to win a batting point but were able, on a drier top, to claim full bowling points, although by the time Ian Austin had rattled through the tail, their lead over Hampshire had declined to 13.

So Lancashire re-appeared, 15 minutes before lunch, in aggressive mood and it was instantly apparent that Hampshire were in trouble. John Stephenson, who has a bruised foot, had to field for Alex Morris, nursing a groin. Nixon McLean, bowling off a short run, carried an ankle injury and had to hobble off leaving Lancashire's Mark Chilton to sub.

While Atherton ambled, Crawley launched into drives and cuts of such power and timing that Hampshire must have felt that they would have been pressed to contain him at full strength.

He reached his 50 off 80 balls, including a six off Raj Maru; his 100 was made out of 141 in the 36th over and included two more sixes, off Shaun Udal. The pavilion, and the members' sides, came as close to singing as you can get in a four-day game. It was heady stuff.

Even when he lost Atherton, caught at slip, he outshone Lancashire's usual accelerator, Neil Fairbrother, lifting Dimitri Mascarenhas for two sixes and taking a third off Udal. He passed 150 in the 56th over and 200 in the 67th with the total on 282.

When sun stopped play, with three overs remaining, Crawley was 211 not out off 236 balls, including 23 fours and seven sixes, his highest score on this ground and the first innings for many years that bears comparison with some of Clive Lloyd's achievements.

By 5.15pm Lancashire, hearing that Surrey were 8 for 4, realised that the game was up and that they are doomed, unless a typhoon hits Kennington, to enter a 65th year without calling themselves champions. Although John Crawley was never less than one yesterday.