Coach Brendon McCullum believes Zak Crawley “can win matches for England” despite the opener going 14 Test innings without a half-century.
Crawley’s lean spell continued with scores of nine and 13 in the first-Test defeat by South Africa at Lord’s.
“He’s a talent, and there are not too many of those guys floating around,” said McCullum. “He’s still learning his game at this level. That will take some patience and persistence.
“I believe in him, that’s for sure.”
Kent’s Crawley averages 26 in his 26 Tests, having made his debut against New Zealand in 2019.
The 267 he made against Pakistan in 2020 is the 10th-highest individual score made by an England man in Tests.
But his 121 against West Indies in March was the last time he managed a score higher than 46. Overall, the 24-year-old has only passed 50 seven times in 48 innings.
“You have to think about the overall package,” said New Zealander McCullum. “We have some players that have been put in those positions because they have certain skillsets.
“I look at a guy like Zak and his skillset is not to be a consistent cricketer. He’s not that type of player.
“He’s put in that situation because he has a game which, when he gets going, he can win matches for England.”
Crawley is set to keep his place for the second Test against the Proteas at Old Trafford, which begins on Thursday.
McCullum rejected the idea Crawley would benefit from being left out.
“That’s not how I think,” he said. “We want to keep giving guys opportunities, then their skill and talent can come out.
“We have to be really positive around the language we use with him and be really consistent with the selections around that, to keep giving guys opportunities.
“Selection loyalty is really important. Not only does it build loyalty from guys in the side, it also builds loyalty from guys on the outside because they know when their opportunity does come they will be afforded the same loyalty.”
The innings-and-12-run defeat at Lord’s, to which England succumbed before tea on the third day, was McCullum’s first as coach following four straight wins.
A feature of England’s successful start to the summer was some aggressive performances with the bat, but the home side were bowled out for 165 and 149 by a powerful South Africa bowling attack.
And McCullum believes his side could have done more to put pressure on the Proteas.
“One of the messages we’ll be talking about is ‘did we go hard enough?'” he said. “Could we have gone a little harder and turned some pressure back on the opposition?
“When the game was in the balance, when some the spells from their boys were testing, we could have been a little braver to turn some pressure back on to the opposition.”