Cricket: Crawley's giant stride

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The Independent Online
IT WAS the sort of scoreboard that English cricket became horribly familiar with this year. One team makes 500-and-lots; the opposition get rolled over. Only yesterday, here at St George's, the big score was posted by England A, not their opponents.

The prime reason was John Crawley's massive 286. It may have been a case of plundering a largely innocuous attack on a compliant wicket but Crawley can only do what he is asked, so bring on Ambrose and Co.

After his opening match for England, at Potchefstroom 12 days ago, Crawley revealed his aim this tour was to 'make four or five scores of 150 or more'. Over the last two days he has methodically set out to get the first and, apart from run-out scares, he never looked like failing. Only when past 200 and indulging in a violent assault did he look like getting out. Dropped off a difficult chance at 227 he eventually spooned a drive back to the bowler.

The innings overshadowed an impressive 126 from Alan Wells and put England in an impregnable position against their weak and exhausted hosts, who promptly collapsed.

At the close they were 127 for 8, 439 runs behind, with England already looking at their sixth successive win. And as if 17 minutes short of 10 hours batting was not enough, it was Crawley who was responsible for the first wicket with a marvellous diving catch, having run back from his position at slip.

Dominic Cork, gaining successive lbws with his inswingers, and Robert Croft, who twice struck with his arm ball, then shared six wickets and Martin McCague took one before bad light stopped the rout.

Crawley has a hunger for runs that is especially effective when it really matters to him. Despite an impressive career at Cambridge University, he failed to score a century against a county side until, in the last such match this summer, he went to Hove and made 187.

Until yesterday that was his highest score; like yesterday it was made against a very weak attack, Sussex having rested most of their main bowlers. But it would be wrong to describe Crawley, like a previous great white hope, as a 'flat-track bully'.

Throughout the innings he defended the good balls and punished the bad. Having received plenty of the latter on reaching 150 on Friday he was restrained by straighter bowling yesterday, making a turgid 12 in 90 minutes. Only after he pushed the 413th ball of the innings off his legs to pass 200 did he become a bully. The fourth fifty had taken 133 balls, the next 86 runs came in 55 balls.

The record score on this 104-year-old ground, Eric Rowan's 284 in 1945-46, had been passed and he was in sight of the last 300-plus score by an Englishman abroad (Mike Brearley's 312 not out for MCC under-25s in Peshawar 27 years ago) when he fell in the pre- declaration slog. He had added 261 in 86 overs with Wells and 93 in 11 overs with Steve Rhodes.

Wells, 51 overnight, had provided the morning thrills, three times driving the left-arm spinner Tim Shaw for six. Poor Shaw: when South Africa were welcomed back into world cricket at an emotional Calcutta two years ago, he was in the team. He has not played for his country since and takes few enough wickets for Province these days.

His leg-spin partner, Adam Huckle, claimed Wells, caught at mid-on pulling, but it was a rare moment of triumph for Province. Next time, Eldine Baptiste will think twice about putting a side in here.

(Second day of four;

Eastern Province won toss)

ENGLAND A - First Innings

(Overnight: 310 for 2)

J P Crawley c and b Lyle 286 A P Wells c Lyle b Huckle 126 M B Loye c and b Shaw 7 S J Rhodes not out 27 Extras (b9 lb11 w7 nb9) 36 Total (for 5 dec) 566

Fall (cont): 3-438 4-473 5-566.

Did not bat: R D B Croft, D G Cork, M J McCague, M C Ilott, P M Such.

Bowling: Lyle 27.2-4-101-1; Baptiste 25-7-60-1; Roe 20-3-84-0; Huckle 49-9-166-1; Shaw 39-8- 135-2.

EASTERN PROVINCE - First Innings

P G Amm c Crawley b Ilott 20 M C Ventner lbw b Cork 31 A Botha lbw b Cork 7 L J Koen st Rhodes b Croft 20 S Pope c Rhodes b Croft 3 * E A Baptiste lbw b Cork 1 T G Shaw lbw b Croft 4 G Morgan not out 10 A Huckle b McCague 5 R Lyle not out 2 Extras (b1 lb13 nb10) 24 Total (for 8) 127

Fall: 1-58 2-70 3-76 4-99 5-101 6-107 7-107 8-125.

To bat: G Roe.

Bowling (to date): McCague 9-4-32-1; Ilott 9-2-31-1; Cork 11-3-22-3; Croft 10-4-28-3.

Umpires: R Koertzen and R Noble.

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