Doubling up: what happened to the young high achievers?

Tony Bishop

Zak Crawley the third youngest English double centurion ever

Yesterday Zak Crawley's immaculate 267 made him England's 3rd youngest test double centurion at 22 years and 201 days. He is the 13th youngest in test cricket overall. For those who delight in test match trivia, his was the highest ever test innings to end with a stumping, so congratulations also to Asad Shafiq and Mohammad Rizwan for their footnote in test history!

Add to that at 6ft 5ins Crawley is certainly the tallest English double centurion. Tony Greig was taller but never made a double test ton. KP did, but was slighter shorter in both highest score and height.

Big runs, Big future?

You would expect that a double test ton for batsmen of tender years would indicate a long and bright future. Generally, that is certainly true. To appropriate Greek fabulist and storyteller Aesop, if a man is judged by the company he keeps, then Zak Crawley has batted himself into an august group.

There are some very familiar names in the 12 above Zak, including Javed Miandad, George Headley, Sir Garfield Sobers, Graeme Smith, Mahela Jayawardene, Sunil Gavaskar, Kraigg Brathwaite, Sir Donald Bradman, Jacques Rudolph, Sir Len Hutton and David Gower. Most are etched permanently into test cricket history. History has elevated a few of them to greatness and immortality.

However, two names present themselves as cautionary tales.

Vinod Kambli is history's third youngest double ton scorer. In fact, he made back to back 200s in 1993 against England and Zimbabwe. Those ensured his final average was a healthy 54.2. However, his career was not a long one even though he once smashed Shane Warne for 22 runs in an over, his flash to gully soon became a trademark. His problems were compounded by indiscipline and an obsession with the width of his bat-handle, which had nine grips on at one time and alas, he played his last Test in 1995 before he had turned 24.

Mathew Sinclair at the ripe old age of 24 was the youngest New Zealand batsman to score a double century in tests, hitting that landmark on debut against West Indies in 1999. His career though was rather stop – start and after making another double ton in 2001, he played only 15 tests across the next 9 years and his final average at shade over 30 owed much to the first two years of his career and a lot less to the subsequent 9.

The English Fab Four

Len Hutton was the youngest at 22 years and 60 days when he graced the Oval with his 364 against Australia in 1938. He went on to score a further 3 double tons and average nearly 57 up to 1955.

David Gower could both delight and occasionally infuriate with his fluid stroke making. He made 200 not out versus India in 1979 in just the second year of his test career aged 22 years and 103 days and touched that landmark one more time in a 12 year career that averaged 44.25.

Just behind Zak at number four, is to be found perhaps the most interesting story. Bill Edrich played his first six tests in 1938, averaging just 9. In 1939, he had played three further tests and made just 7 runs in total before plundering 219 vs South Africa at Kingsmead aged 22 years and 352 days. The war meant that Bill would have to wait until 1946 before resuming his test career and adding a considerable weight of runs up to 1955. His war experience certainly put in perspective anything that Australia or any other test opponent could throw at him. He attained the rank of Squadron Leader, operating as a pilot for RAF Bomber Command where he took part in in a low-level daylight attack against power stations in the Cologne area, described as "the RAF's most audacious and dangerous low-level bombing raid". Of the 54 Blenheims sent on the mission, twelve were shot down. The likes of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, who had his own war stories to tell, perhaps lacked the terror they might otherwise have for Bill.

A Bright future awaits

The law of precedent certainly suggests a long and successful career for Zak Crawley. We should all hope this is the case as it will mean that test cricket has continued to thrive and come through the current challenging times!

Go well, Zak!!

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