England’s batting woes have been exposed by a classy New Zealand outfit, and one young gun’s spot in the Test side is now in jeopardy.
Six months out from the Ashes series, there remains a glaring problem within England’s top-order.
Zak Crawley’s nightmare slump with the bat continued on Thursday evening, dismissed for a duck on day one of the second Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston.
Early in the afternoon session in Birmingham, the right-hander threw his bat at a wide delivery from Kiwi seamer Neil Wagner, the thick outside edge comfortably taken by Daryl Mitchell at third slip.
The moment continues an ugly trend for Crawley, unnecessarily swiping at deliveries outside off stump early in his innings. He was removed for two and two during last week’s Test at Lord’s in almost identical fashion.
Watch The England v NZ Test Series Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Worryingly, the 23-year-old has registered scores of 0, 2, 2, 9, 5, 53, 0, 5, 13, 9, 8 in the game’s longest format this year.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain said Crawley has been a “horror show” throughout the Test series against New Zealand.
“His three dismissals against New Zealand, really, have been a horror show and when you are under pressure, as Crawley is now, the brain does some funny things to you,” Hussain wrote for the Daily Mail.
“He is still a good player, he’s still worth England investing in, and after this Test he can go back to Kent and have some fun in white-ball cricket. That will be a good way for Crawley to free himself up and go and get some runs.”
Crawley was recently named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year following a breakthrough summer with the bat.
He compiled 267 in a mammoth knock against Pakistan last August, the second-highest score by an English batter on home soil this century.
But since that career-defining performance, Crawley has averaged 9.63 and risks losing his spot in the Test XI.
England has been searching for a reliable No. 3 since Jonathan Trott stepped away from the game for mental health reasons in late 2013.
The Poms have trialled 16 batters at first drop since the Gabba Test in November 2013, collectively scoring just eight centuries in 176 innings.
Skipper Joe Root has occupied the No. 3 spot most often for England during that time, but the 30-year-old boasts a considerably stronger record at No. 4 — where he will presumably bat during the Ashes.
England selectors are now tasked with deciding whether to persist with Crawley or introduce a new No. 3 during the upcoming five-Test series against India.
READ MORE: England villain in hot water over tweet
Opening batter Rory Burns continued his stellar run of form on Thursday, top-scoring on day one with 81.
He and Dom Sibley survived until the lunch break, combining for England’s longest opening partnership in the first innings of a home Test since 2009.
Although Sibley’s recent form does not look overly impressive on paper — 291 runs at 22.38 this year — his ability to survive lengthy spells against the new ball will be crucial during the Ashes.
Dan Lawrence later silenced his doubters in the evening session, finishing the day unbeaten on 67 to guide the hosts to 7/258 at stumps.
Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Ajaz Patel each snared two wickets for the Kiwis — who were forced to make six changes to their starting XI.
Day two will commence on Friday at 8pm AEST.