AS England’s hopes of winning this Second Test against Pakistan slipped away in the evening gloom in Southampton, Zak Crawley leapt to the defence of the umpires, insisting if the issue of bad light is downplayed there is risk of serious injury.
Despite hardly any rain falling during the first three days of this match, the light – or lack of it – has proven to be a contentious issue, with umpires Richard Illingworth and Michael Gough heavily criticised for taking the players off 14 minutes into the evening session of day two when there appeared no discernible deterioration in the conditions.
Yesterday was technically a washout but it was the light that again proved the decisive factor in abandoning proceedings.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Crawley. “You always want the game moving forward, especially when I’d like a bat. But I was at deep square when a couple of balls got hit out and I didn’t see them at all really.
“I don’t know if anyone else was feeling the same. It’s a difficult one, if someone cops one on the head because they didn’t see the ball in the field or a batsman cops one on the arm and misses the rest of the series, that’s life changing differences in their career or their lives.
“It hasn’t happened in this game yet but who’s to say if we come out and it’s dark someone doesn’t break their arm or get hit in the head by a cricket ball?
“It’s a difficult balance. It’s not for me to say if it’s too dark. It’s the umpire’s responsibility to look after the players.
“As a fielder I was frustrated, you want to keep going, but walking off I was thinking I’d want to take the light if I was batting. You have to look at it from both sides and probably the right decision was made. It was pretty dark.
“I’m one who’s argued I’ve watched T20s when I was younger and they’ve come off when it’s drizzling. You know it’s an entertainment business and we’re playing for the fans back home. I’ve been guilty of that, although when you’re standing there facing it, all you want to do is go off.
“But it is an entertainment business so maybe there’s a way to work around it and give the fans what they want.”
Whenever play does resume here at the Ageas Bowl – and the forecast for the final two days doesn’t look great – Crawley will be striving to score his maiden century in his seventh Test.
The Kent batsman impressed during a debut winter in New Zealand and South Africa and made his top score of 76 in the first Test of the summer against the West Indies in Southampton last month.
He said: “I think about it all the time. I pinch myself thinking about scoring a hundred in my room at night.
“I massively want to score a hundred for England. I don’t want to put myself under pressure, I feel that could create too much tension as I get closer.
“I’m trying to score in little sets of ten. No doubt, the first one is probably the hardest to get so I’m very much looking forward to the day I hopefully can get one. There’s a lot of hard work yet.”
It’s an achievement that Joe Denly, Crawley’s Kent team-mate, never managed in 15 Tests before he was dropped last month.
Denly’s top score of 94 came against Australia in last summer’s final Ashes Test at The Oval – but the decision to discard him was made easier by his failure to reach three figures.
“There’s no hundreds next to his name but he played some crucial knocks for England,” said Crawley. “That 94 against that attack is as good as any hundred against a lesser attack.
“That was one of the best knocks of his life. But the currency is 100s. I don’t necessarily agree with it but it’s what we’re all chasing.”
Other than four days at home late last month in between the West Indies and Pakistan series, England’s players and staff have been locked down inside a bio-secure bubble for almost two months.
However, Crawley is happy with life in the bubble – even if some of his team-mates are cheating during card games.
“It’s absolutely fine,” he said. “Obviously you’d like to be around family and friends and go to restaurants like your friends are doing. But if this is what it takes to play Test cricket, I’d happily stay in here for a while longer.
“It feels a bit like we’re all pretty used to each other now. There’s a couple of cheats in the card games. Jos Buttler is a cheat and Rory Burns is a cheat.
“I have to keep my eyes on them. You’re only cheating yourself, I say to them.”