Half-centuries for both openers as well as captain Joe Root underpin solid start to tour
England XI 251 for 4 (Lees 65, Crawley 62, Root 54, Charles 3-88) vs CWI President’s XI
A glimpse of the future? Or another false dawn? At the close of play on day one of England’s warm-up against the CWI President’s XI, the card read 251 for 4. But crucially, next to the names of England’s latest opening pair, runs.
The new opening pair is one for the traditionalists. Two players of sound, orthodox technique, with one batter right-handed and one left. Aesthetically, it’s in stark contrast to what has come before and it will warm the hearts of all those who consider the MCC manual their holy book.
Their first outing together produced a century stand. Crawley in particular looked in the type of touch that only he is able to produce. Blessed and cursed with the ability to make the game look easy, he raced ahead of Lees in the morning session to reach his half-century before lunch.
“I felt in decent touch,” Crawley said at the close of play. “I was thankful to bat with a left-hander at the top. Sometimes you get a couple of loose ones.
“I think it does help [having a left-right combination]. You get a few more balls on your legs or a bit wider if they’ve been bowling at the lefty for a little bit. Leesy puts them under pressure a little bit in slightly different ways to what I do so it works quite well.”
If Crawley’s sixty was one reached at a canter, Lees’ came at a leisurely stroll. Both were as in control of their game as the other.
“I’ve always rated Alex,” Crawley said. “Always thought he was a really good player. He’s got a great temperament for this level, doesn’t seem like much fazes him. He’s really good to bat with in the middle, really calm and up for quite a chilled atmosphere. I think he’ll do well at this level.”
It was a sentiment that rang true on the evidence of the day’s play. Even when Lees was only on one run off his first 36 deliveries he appeared in total control. He was a man very calmly walking up the wrong side of an escalator. Completely comfortable. Just not going anywhere.
Lees’ lack of movement on the scoreboard was also extended to his trigger. Or more to the point, his lack of one. Lees’ doesn’t trigger. At all. He is completely still upon delivery aside from his bat gently wafting in the air. It is serenity where England fans have been trained to expect carnage.
But that’s not to say that Lees doesn’t have any of his own quirks too. Before each delivery he turns his head to have a long look at his bat to check all is well and aligned before returning his attention to the bowler. What a beautifully normal thing to do. Crack on, Alex.
Of course, Rory Burns did exactly the same thing. But instead of turning his head left and looking at his bat, he turned it right and looked at midwicket. For this quirk, and others, Burns was deemed beyond the pale.
That’s not to criticise or undermine Lees. He batted very well in his first appearance in an England shirt and deserves praise for it. But a reminder that our praise should be reserved for the result and not the process. If Crawley and Lees turns out to be the answer to England’s opening woes, it will be because of how many runs they score. And not how they get them.
Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby