England: Solid start for Alex Lees and Zak Crawley

England
Alex Lees

Newcomer Alex Lees and Zak Crawley began England’s tour of the West Indies with a wicketless first session in their only warm-up clash in Antigua, kicking off the much-discussed “red-ball reset” in sturdy fashion.

Much has changed off the field since they were thrashed 4-0 in the Ashes, with head coach Chris Silverwood, assistant Graham Thorpe and director of cricket Ashley Giles all sacked, while champion seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad have been overlooked with an eye on the future.

Hopes are high that the on-field shift will also be sizeable after a string of desperate batting displays in Australia and their latest opening pair made a solid start in reaching 65 without loss on the first morning against a CWI President’s XI.

Held at the renovated Coolidge Cricket Ground – previously known for its unwanted association with fraudster Allen Stanford – this 12-a-side outing represents the tourists’ entire competitive build-up for next week’s first Test and a chance for the uncapped Lees (11 not out) to forge a partnership with Crawley (52no).

The left-hander was reassuringly steady, seeing off a new-ball burst from Shermon Lewis and Preston McSween with a well-rehearsed defence. With Crawley unfurling a couple of crisp drives to get the scoreboard ticking, Lees scored a solitary run in his first half-hour as he settled in and banked time at the crease with nothing more than a couple of strangled lbw appeals to concern him.

He finally freed his arms when Colin Archibald offered him some width, punching the ball in front of point for four after 37 deliveries of watching and waiting, and picked up another before settling for an unbeaten 11 at lunch.

It was Crawley who took the game forward, easing into his status as the senior top-order batter. He pierced the infield eight times on his way to a fluent half-century, raising his bat just before the interval.

He was striking the ball nicely, as he so often does, but also operating with a little more conservatism outside off stump. For captain Joe Root, who has moved up to number three to offer the top order some resilience, it was a satisfying watching brief.

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