England batsman Zak Crawley sticks by his game-plan for second Test in tough Sri Lanka conditions

England batsman Zak Crawley explains why a couple of low scores will not dramatically alter his plans against Sri Lanka, hails Dan Lawrence and Joe Root, and reveals why he is not on social media…

We have won four away Test matches in a row now which is a great achievement for everyone, especially as we have fielded four quite different teams across those games. That shows the strength in depth we have at the moment. Hopefully, we make it five victories this week.

To make it four wins in a row, we had to keep on top of things at 14-3 in our second innings of the first Test. It could easily have slipped away in those conditions.

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We had quite a lot of batting to come and I always felt we were still on top but it wouldn’t have needed a lot – a couple of good balls or a couple of mistakes and we would really have been in trouble. Thankfully, Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence played really well.

When Dom Sibley and I went out to open on Sunday night, the plan was just to bat. It was quite dark and there wasn’t much time left in the day so we just wanted to occupy the crease, knowing that would be easier the following day. It wasn’t to be for us but Jonny and Dan saw us home.

The conditions I faced in the second innings were up there with the toughest I have encountered in Test cricket, if not the toughest. In South Africa, the difficulty was the pace of their attack and the skill of Vernon Philander but in terms of spin, that was the toughest I have had in my life.

It was a great challenge. I didn’t come through it unfortunately but I have learnt a lot about my game and have taken some confidence from it going forward in a strange sort of way.

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Backing myself

I still back my game-plan despite a couple of low scores – I won’t be changing too much, I just need to do things better. That’s the way I am looking at it.

I gave my wicket away in the first innings when I felt really comfortable, while in the second innings I got a bit of luck with a dropped catch even before I got out. It if it were my night I would have survived, but it wasn’t to be. I still feel good about my game.

Everyone makes mistakes, you just try to limit the number of them. I made a mistake in the first innings but I think looking to go over mid-off against the spinner is a very strong shot of mine and I would probably play it again if I was in the same position. I just have to play it better.

I caught my pad with my bat on the way through and the ball looped up to the fielder at mid-off. I was very annoyed with myself and thought at the time that maybe I didn’t need to do it.

But you do have to put some pressure back on the bowlers, which we saw Joe Root do unbelievably well. He constantly put the Sri Lanka bowlers off their length. You have to throw a couple of punches back in these conditions and that’s what I was trying to do. Hopefully, I can execute better this week.

Batting against the spinners with a new ball is a different challenge to facing them with the old one. The ball tends to skid on a bit more, so I have learnt to play for the straight one. Then if a ball spins past the edge, I am fine with that. You just have to accept those things.

Then it’s about adapting when the ball gets older and softer and starts turning more consistently. The main thing I have learnt is to be constantly thinking. You can’t ever relax mentally, you have to be switched on when assessing the conditions as they change quite quickly over here.

I have practised against spin with a new ball, before the first Test as well as afterwards, as I always felt that was something Sri Lanka would hit us with.

Jack Leach and Dom Bess have been bowling to us in the nets with a new ball, but I find our bowlers and their bowlers quite different. The Sri Lankans get a lot of side spin, whereas our boys generate a lot more top spin. It’s something I am going to have to be ready for when the game comes.

Moeen is back with us now after his quarantine. He’s won a couple of games of chess since he has been back so we have got to knock him off his perch there, but he has been on good form and you wouldn’t know he has been isolating for two weeks. He’s got the dry sense of humour that I find really funny so long may that continue.

Zak Crawley on Moeen Ali

Lawrence’s aura and what we can learn from Root

Dan had a great debut, scoring 73 and then taking us home alongside Jonny. He is just a really good player. You could see the confidence he had in his own game and that he didn’t look at all nervous – even though I am sure there would have been some nerves on the inside.

He has a great aura about him when he bats and I think it is the start of a very promising career for him. To play like that on debut in tough conditions was really impressive.

Then our captain delivered a masterclass with his double hundred. I think some people drop Rooty out of that top group, alongside Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson, but I think he easily belongs in that.

He plays half his games in England, which you’d probably say is the hardest place to bat in the world when the conditions are suiting the bowlers.

Some people might look at those other guys’ averages being a few runs higher and say they are better than him but Joe is a really versatile player and easily as good as those players, in my opinion.

We can learn a lot from the way Joe played in that double hundred. He swept beautifully but the main thing I took was the way he hit singles throughout the innings and got himself down the other end. It made it very hard for the spinners to bowl at him.

Joe’s knock came after a day one where everything went our way. The sweep into Jonny’s foot that deflected to Jos Buttler for a catch; a run out off Leachy’s hand – there were some weird dismissals.

We knew the pitch wasn’t as bad as 135 all out. We then had to get our head down and get a big lead as we knew that if we were chasing anything over 100 then it was going to be tough – as was proved in our second innings.

Sri Lanka didn’t have the day one they were looking for but they fought really hard after that and if they play like that again in the second Test, we are going to have to play really well to beat them. We are expecting a tough game.

Hopefully, our lone fan in Sri Lanka, Rob Lewis, is back for that match. He must have a sore throat as he was brilliant on the fort last week – he knew most of the Barmy Army songs and was singing them pretty loudly. Support in the ground is quite rare these days so we’d love to see him again.

There has been chat about four-day Test cricket but games we have seen recently – India vs Australia this week, our win over South Africa in Cape Town last winter – show how important it is to keep it five days. I watched the Australia vs India Test and it was an unbelievable game of cricket. Two great sides going at it over five days, exactly what people want to see.

Zak Crawley on Test cricket

Why I’m not on Twitter

In a rare thing for modern players, perhaps, I am not on social media. I did have Twitter once and I felt that people had too much access to me, which I didn’t think I needed.

I found also myself spending a lot of time flicking through bits and pieces online and decided the less time I was on my phone the better. Being on it before a day’s play can really drain your energy.

You don’t want to read too many positive things and get big-headed or too many negative things and get too down on yourself, so I find being off Twitter helps me stay level, helps me stay in my bubble and with my thoughts rather than other people’s.

I obviously have trusted people I speak to and those are the opinions I want to hear, so I don’t look too far out of that circle.

Watch day one of the second Test between Sri Lanka and England, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 4am on Friday.

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