Is Zak Crawley England’s long-term No 3? Lydia Greenway, Adam Collins, Bazid Khan on The Cricket Debate

So England have found their long-term number three, right?

Zak Crawley certainly staked a strong claim after stroking 171no on day one of the third Test against Pakistan, becoming the first Englishman to score a Test hundred at home in that position since Joe Root in 2016.

But selection is never quite that easy, as our guests Lydia Greenway, Adam Collins and Bazid Khan discussed on The Cricket Debate panel.

When Ben Stokes is ready to return to the side, could England’s selectors be forced to bump Crawley to the top of the order – perhaps at the expense of Rory Burns, who has scored four, 10, nought and six in his four innings against Pakistan?

Writer and broadcaster Collins reflected: “You look at it and see a top-three that England have done a good job in blooding over the last 12-18 months – and on paper you’d want to stay the course on that.

“But in practice when Ben Stokes comes back into this England Test XI – whenever next they play, which could be March in the UAE potentially. Who knows what happens with that India series?

“If Stokes comes back in on a straight swap-for-swap then a player in the top six will probably need to drop out – or they have to recalibrate it in a different way.

“Zak Crawley is the man who has been overlooked a couple of times this summer. He’s made sure that won’t be happening again.

“So Rory Burns – who made an Ashes ton this time last year and another century in South Africa – he’d be looking around going ‘well, who else is it going to be in this to six if not me?’

“Now sure, they may not play five bowlers the way they have done so far this summer when they get to the next Test series, which might free up room for Stokes and what he brings to the table with the ball.

“But there is always someone on that ‘death-seat’ if you like and at the moment by virtue of the fact that he hasn’t gone on to make a big score this summer, it probably is Burns.

“But at the same time I would expect stability to be at the top of the list and investing in that comparatively young pair of Sibley and Burns and Crawley at three might be a long-term investment, knowing that they can have the captain coming in at four.”

Former Pakistan player Khan said the make-up of England’s top-three must adapt not only to form but also conditions.

“If you go to the subcontinent you have to play a lot of spin so you have to put that in the mix and how these players can adapt to spin,” he said.

“So it’s not all about the ball seaming around, which you guys prefer – so yes, Burns and Sibley will be tested in another skill altogether.

“In the recent past English openers have maybe done better away from home than actually at home, so maybe that will also come into the mix.”

Watch day two of the third and final #raisethebat Test between England and Pakistan, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am.


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