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Kent's director of cricket Paul Downton backs Zak Crawley to impress for England during three-match Test series in the West Indies


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Kent's director of cricket Paul Downton is backing Zak Crawley to have a successful England series in the West Indies.

Crawley has retained his place as part of a new-look 16-man squad after England’s Ashes defeat in Australia.

Kent's Zak Crawley is part of England's squad for the three-match Test series in the West Indies. Picture: Ady Kerry
Kent's Zak Crawley is part of England's squad for the three-match Test series in the West Indies. Picture: Ady Kerry

The 24-year-old is expected to open the batting alongside Durham's Alex Lees.

Right-handed Crawley burst onto the international stage with a brilliant 267 against Pakistan in 2020 but hasn’t scored an international century since.

But Crawley did make a fluent 77 in Sydney and built up to the first Test, which gets under way today (Tuesday) at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, with 62 against a Cricket West Indies President’s XI.

Downton thinks it’s only a matter of time before Crawley comes good for his country.

“I think that 70-odd he scored in Sydney really changed the narrative about England’s batting in Australia," he said.

“He is somebody who oozes class. I think the Australians couldn’t believe that he hadn’t been playing more or that he had such a bad run really - his numbers don’t back up his talent yet.

“But to my mind, it’s only a matter of time before he establishes himself and then I think he will become a very strong feature and fixture in the England side. I know he is very determined.

“He is looking forward to it - a left-handed, right-handed combination with Alex Lees, which will have a very new look. They are both big, tall, guys and will have the ability to score runs, as well as just occupy the crease.

“I expect him to do well.”

Alongside Crawley, team-mate Sam Billings now also has an England Test cap under his belt and, although the Kent skipper has not been selected for the tour of West Indies, Billings is keen to add to his sole Test appearance in Hobart.

Billings is expected to be involved for England this summer in the shorter format of the game.

Kent captain Sam Billings poses in their T20 Blast shirt for the 2022 season. Picture: Kent Cricket
Kent captain Sam Billings poses in their T20 Blast shirt for the 2022 season. Picture: Kent Cricket

Commenting on Kent’s communications with the England Cricket Board more broadly, Downton added: “Our strategy at Kent is to find and develop talent in the county, develop that talent so that they can play for Kent and, ideally, if players are good enough, for players to go on and play for England.

“We are very proud of our England players.

“Zak is centrally-contracted this year, so England have first call on him. Hopefully he will have a good series in the West Indies and really establish himself as ‘The’ opening batter in the England set-up.

“England, to be fair, are very good with their communication. They give us a heads-up as early as they can and I know that they rate Zak very highly.

"It’s now up to Zak to score some runs and deliver (on) the potential he definitely has. I would be surprised if he doesn't do that because I think he is a magnificent player.

Kent seamer Fred Klaassen looking focused. Picture: Kent Cricket
Kent seamer Fred Klaassen looking focused. Picture: Kent Cricket

“His attitude and mental make-up is extremely strong, he’s very determined, so I would expect him to have a good season and really establish himself in the side.

“Sam of course knows now, having played a Test match, that he can do it. We will see what (Jos) Buttler does, we will see what (Jonny) Bairstow does - and I think (Ben) Foakes will be given a run. But Sam quite rightly could see himself as number two in the country potentially.

“I know he’d love nothing more than to play more Tests for England than just the one. I think it’s great.

“Underneath that, we want to be providing players to the Lions.

“The Lions tour was a funny one this year but I know Matt Milnes and Ollie Robinson will be competing there - to name just two.

“No doubt, some others will be putting their hands up as well.”

England’s three-match Test series in the West Indies will also see them play at the Kensington Oval, Bridgetown (March 16-20) and the National Cricket Stadium, St. George's (March 24-28).

Meanwhile, Kent have revealed the designs for their T20 Blast champions’ kit as they defend their title.

Paying homage to the Supermarine Spitfire from which Kent takes its name in limited-overs competition, the Spitfires’ shirts in this season’s Blast will showcase the speed, power and agility of the aircraft that re-defined aviation in the mid-20th century.

After success at Edgbaston last year, two gold stars sit above the Kent Spitfires crest.

Kent captain Sam Billings said: “I’ve been impressed by the ethos and attention to detail that Castore have had in our short partnership to-date and the men’s squad are all excited to be playing in this kit in 2022.

"We’re all looking forward to defending our title."

Designs for Kent men’s kits in other competitions, and the kits for Kent Women, will be revealed "in the coming weeks".

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