We’re massively up for it – Zak Crawley says England hungry to end on Oval high

Zak Crawley insists motivation will be no problem as England attempt to round off a memorable Ashes summer by levelling the series at the Kia Oval.

Without two days of rain at Emirates Old Trafford, this week’s clash was shaping up as an all-or-nothing shootout for the urn and would surely have been the most hyped Test match in this country since the touchstone summer of 2005.

The stakes are smaller for England now, but the prospect of securing a 2-2 draw and denying rivals Australia a first outright win on these shores since 2001 remains a prize to play for.

Crawley, whose outstanding 189 in Manchester became an instant Ashes classic as he flayed the Test world champions to all four corners of the ground on day two, admitted the soggy conclusion was frustrating but has no doubt about the hunger in the home dressing room.

“We’re massively up for it. Any game, you want to win,” said the opener, who sits as the top run-scorer in the series with 385.

“As Ben Stokes says, we’re building as a team, this isn’t the end just because it’s the end of the Ashes. Hopefully, it’s very much the start.

“I think 2-2 would be fair. They had the better of us at Lord’s, Edgbaston could have gone either way, we probably deserved this one and Headingley could have gone either way. So I think 2-2 would be right.

“It felt like we were getting on top of them for sure and if we’d won this game it would have been very interesting to see. They’ve got some very good players and would have bounced back but the momentum would have been with us for sure.”

England have named an unchanged 14-man squad for the fifth Test, leaving question marks over the make-up of their pace attack.

Record wicket-taker James Anderson, who turns 41 on day four of the match, is under the microscope after a disappointing series that has seen him take just four wickets at an average of 76.75.

He managed a single breakthrough in what was his farewell Ashes outing at his home ground last week and a familiar bout of speculation around his future follows him to south London.

England v Australia – LV= Insurance Ashes Series 2023 – Fourth Test – Day Three – Emirates Old Trafford

James Anderson has only had limited success during this summer’s Ashes so far (Martin Rickett/PA)

Anderson has defied expectations around the longevity of fast bowlers for so long that it has become an almost annual tradition to wonder if he might be set for an emotional swansong.

His prospects of getting one more chance to make his mark on this series are improved by worries over Chris Woakes, who has been excellent for the past two games but complained off stiffness in the second innings at Old Trafford.

Woakes had not played Test cricket for 18 months before returning to the side at Headingley and three games in quick succession may be too much of an ask.

England also have the up-and-coming Josh Tongue at their disposal, as well as a fit-again Ollie Robinson, and may also ask to check on leading wicket-taker Stuart Broad, who will be eager for the challenge of playing a sixth consecutive game in little more than seven weeks.

It is understood that Anderson has given no indication at all that he is planning to hang up his boots, and the notion of a grand, emotional farewell in the vein of Sir Alastair Cook is unlikely to appeal.

Rob Key, England’s managing director of men’s cricket, may find himself with a decision to make when the next batch of central contracts are awarded later this year but the three-day break between back-to-back Tests is hardly the time for such debates.

For once, Crawley’s continued selection faces no discussion whatsoever. His imperious century explained perfectly the faith he has enjoyed during leaner times and could act as a springboard for a new chapter.

“I feel I’m as good a player as I have ever been, I feel good about my game,” he said.

England v Australia – LV= Insurance Ashes Series 2023 – Fourth Test – Day Two – Emirates Old Trafford

Zak Crawley is top of the Ashes run-scoring charts following his big hundred at Old Trafford (Martin Rickett/PA)

“Fast bowling suits my game and the Australian attack is a quick attack. I think a bit less when they’re faster.

“I’m pleased with how I’m playing, I’ve just got to build on it.

“I have a bit more experience now, things to fall back on in different conditions, so I feel I can kick on now. I’ll be keeping myself to myself and listen to close friends and family. They’re the only opinions I care about.”

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