London: Former South Africa batsman Jimmy Cook insisted on Sunday John Crawley's best days as a Test cricketer were still in front of him.
Crawley, 30, was recalled to England's squad for Thursday's first Test against India after opening batsman Marcus Trescothick sustained a fractured thumb while fielding in a county match. Crawley made scores of 31 and 41 not out during England's first Test draw against Sri Lanka at Lord's earlier this season when the selectors opted for the insurance of an extra batsman but was discarded for the two victories that followed at Edgbaston and Old Trafford. Once hailed as one of England's brightest prospects, Crawley's Test career has so far failed to scale the heights predicted for him. In a stop-start 30 Tests, Crawley has made 1,401 runs at a below par 32.58, with three hundreds. But Cook, coach at Crawley's county club Hampshire, said the former Lancashire captain, who left Old Trafford in acrimonious fashion at the end of the season, was in the best form of his career. "I think as a batsman you improve a little bit with age and from 27 onwards you begin to understand your game and become a little bit more consistent," said Cook, who made his Test debut at the advanced age of 39 because of South Africa's apartheid-enforced isolation. "I would think John is at his peak now and will be for the next two or three years," added Cook who scored 64 first-class hundreds for Transvaal, Somerset and South Africa, averaging over 50 in a 23-year first-class career. "I only started to make my mark in grade 'A' cricket in South Africa when I was 27 and when I was 35 I came to England with lots of confidence in what I did and enjoyed a lot of success." Crawley, who will be 31 by the time England depart for their Ashes series in Australia this October, has been in fine form for his new employers scoring 749 first-class runs at an average of 68 so far this season. "He's gone beyond what we expected," said Cook. "We knew he could play but the help he gives to the other guys, the ideas he has during matches and the way he talks to the youngsters has been brilliant.
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