Michael Atherton has said that he has found few England batters as “puzzling” as Zak Crawley, following the incumbent Test opener’s double century against Somerset last week after a lean run at the start of the domestic season.

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Crawley scored 238 at Canterbury as Kent looked to pull off a remarkable turnaround. They faced down a 376-run first innings deficit after being bowled out for 178, Crawley himself being dismissed for a golden duck. Asked to follow-on, Crawley played a remarkable innings, taking Kent to 399-3 before he was dismissed. Kent eventually lost the match by eight wickets after setting Somerset 189 to get in the final innings.

Writing in his column for The Times, Atherton reflected on the unpredictable nature of Crawley’s scoring at both Test and domestic level. “He has begun the season in what can only be called classic Zak Crawley fashion,” wrote Atherton. “With scores for Kent in the County Championship of 5, 4, 41, 1, 6, 10, a (first-ball) duck and, in what was a superb round of county matches last week, 238 against Somerset — a thoroughly idiosyncratic way to average 38, a reasonable mark for an opener in early-season conditions.”

“Readers will know that I have been largely long on Crawley (to use betting terminology), holding a £10 bet with the political writer Philip Collins that Crawley will average more than 35 by the time his Test career is done. It must be said the bet was a braver one made by Collins, struck as it was immediately after Crawley’s 267 against Pakistan at Southampton in 2020.

“I enjoy watching Crawley play and admire the way he has dealt with failure, a key requirement in any professional sport. I confess, though, not many England batsmen have puzzled me more: how can one go from looking so flawed to so good from match to match and how can one look so ordinary and then so destructive in both county and international cricket?”

Crawley has gone through extended lean patches in Test cricket while maintaining his place at the top of the order. Following his double-hundred against Pakistan in 2020, he made double figures in only five of his next 16 Test innings. After 82 Test innings, he currently averages 32.63 having scored four centuries. The most recent of those centuries was a blistering 189 against Australia at Old Trafford last summer, before making four scores of 50 or more in England’s most recent series in India.

“In the same way, I veer from confidence in my bet to uncertainty,” wrote Atherton. “At present, Collins is in the money. In his next Test innings, Crawley needs 224 to nudge his average over 35. He is as likely to get that as a duck, I imagine.”