England aiming to bat once in fourth Test – Crawley

Zak Crawley expects England will plan to bat just once in the must-win fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

The home side dominated a remarkable day two in Manchester, closing on 384-4, a lead of 67 over Australia.

Crawley led the way with a superb 189 from 182 balls but with rain forecast over the weekend, England must decide on the best approach to force a result and level the series.

“Anything can happen with [Ben] Stokes,” Crawley said.

“While we have two very good players at the crease [Stokes and Harry Brook] and Jonny [Bairstow] still to come, plus a strong tail, I think the gameplan will be to bat well tomorrow and bat once.

“Maybe if we lose a couple of early wickets tomorrow that changes but we’d like a big lead and bowl them out and not have to bat again.

“That would be ideal and we are not expecting that… we are expecting them to bat well.”

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Speaking to BBC Test Match Special, he added: “We’ll just keep trying to score quickly. It will be nice bowling last.

“I think the pitch will start playing tricks so the bigger lead we can get, the better.”

With Australia leading the five-match series 2-1, England need to win to keep their chances of regaining the Ashes alive.

The threat of rain – with the forecast suggesting Saturday could be a washout – significantly increases the chances of a draw that would see Australia retain the urn.

England did their bit to keep the Test moving forward by scoring 178 runs in just 25 overs in the afternoon session, with Crawley accounting for 106 of them.

“I was just trying to play my natural game,” he said.

“I like to be positive against them. I’ve scored quicker in this series than against most and I think that’s just the quality of their bowlers, I don’t want to sit there for too long because there’s a good ball in there.

“I batted well at times and scored really quickly in certain patches, then tried to absorb and get a few singles in others.

“We haven’t really focused too much on the weather, we’re just controlling what we can control. If that comes, we’ll worry about that later in the game.”

Having been bowled out for 317 early in the day, Australia struggled for control with the stroke-making of Crawley, Moeen Ali and Joe Root putting significant pressure on the visitors’ bowlers.

Every frontline bowler went at a minimum of four runs an over with captain Pat Cummins going at 5.81 and ending the day wicketless through 16 overs.

“An incredibly tough day but full credit to England the way that they played, in particular Crawley, an outstanding innings,” Australia head coach Andrew McDonald told BBC Today at the Test.

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“I think the pitch will start to play up. We’re a little bit behind at the moment to consider that and what it may look like to bowl on last.

“Draws don’t factor in at the speed these Tests are being played at so that was never discussed coming in.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about the weather but we thought we were going to get washed out in our preparations and we got two cracking days to prepare.

“The weather is unpredictable so the draw and the weather wasn’t a factor in our thinking.”

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