England ODI captaincy against Ireland ‘a great opportunity’ for Zak Crawley

By Sports Desk September 19, 2023

Zak Crawley admits he was “shocked” to be named England captain for the one-day series against Ireland, more than two years after his only previous appearances in the format.

With England’s World Cup squad preparing to head for India, the selectors have cast their net far and wide for their three Metro Bank ODIs, but Crawley was still an unexpected pick as leader.

Despite being an ever-present in the Test side in recent times – and an Ashes star this summer – he has played only three 50-over games. They all came in the 2021 season, when Covid withdrawals left England scrambling for late replacements.

Speaking at Headingley on the eve of his first outing in charge, the 25-year-old said: “Yeah, I was shocked. I was just hoping to get into the team and play more for England. But they told me I was captain and it’s a great opportunity for me.

“It was Motty (head coach Matthew Mott) who gave me the call to say I’d be in the squad and captaining. It was as simple as that. He was doing the rounds phoning everyone else so it was a pretty brief phone call but a pretty good call.”

While Crawley will be leading an inexperienced squad, including four uncapped players and seven more with six caps or fewer, the vastly experienced Joe Root will be on hand on Wednesday to help out.

Like the rest of the first-choice squad he was not due to feature but asked to play at his home ground in a bid to find some form after a lean series against New Zealand.

And for Crawley, having his first Test skipper there is a major boost.

“Obviously having Joe in the team makes it stronger, no matter what team you’re in. It’s great having him,” said Crawley.

“Especially so for me as captain because I can lean on him for that kind of stuff. It’s awesome and hopefully he gets what he wants from it.”

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    Gardner is tasked with managing the varied dietary requirements of Andy Farrell’s 33-man squad for their shot at glory in France.

    The 37-year-old previously worked as a nutritionist for the England and Wales Cricket Board, a period which included Ben Stokes’ World Cup final heroics against New Zealand at Lord’s.

    She clearly has a recipe for success, having also been involved with Great Britain Hockey when the women’s team clinched gold at the 2016 Olympics.

    While diet plans are structured and relatively strict, Gardner, from Accrington, Lancashire, acknowledges there needs to be some leeway and feels “internet, food and sleep” are the main requirements for maintaining morale.

    “I took a lot of learnings from both those environments, the Olympic Games and the Cricket World Cup,” she said.

    “I’m used to the nature of the tournament, used to getting players ready for a match. Having to get them ready again is probably the main learning.

    “It’s a long tournament. There’s a long time to concentrate and keep players focused. A big learning for me is ‘food is mood’, particularly in these campaigns.

    “We obviously try to keep high quality all the time but there’ll be times where we go ‘let’s just calm it a bit’ and give them what they want and relax because that’s also important when you’re here for such a long time.

    “Internet, food and sleep are the three things that tend to keep people happy.”

    Ireland’s players have individual nutritional requirements based on position, body weight and expected playing time, with six eating windows per day.

    Prop Andrew Porter, for example, can consume up to 600 grams of carbohydrates – a plate of pasta is around 80 grams – ahead of a game.

    Gardner’s work involves devising bespoke plans and ensuring the squad are suitably replenished ready for the next fixture.

    “In this squad, I actually haven’t had too many crazy requests,” she said.

    “Other teams and other sports, I’ve had some very bizarre requests.

    “You sometimes get people wanting steak for every single meal, as an example.

    “But these guys are very straightforward, they love their food, they’re not fussy, my life is very simple in a way. They just like food and lots of it.”

    Gardner, who started the job last October, began her career at Northampton Saints a decade ago when nutrition in rugby was “hugely” different.

    A major challenge during the current tournament is that all but one of Ireland’s fixtures kick off at 9pm local time.

    “There’s a psychology to a 9pm kick-off,” she said.

    “Sometimes the challenge is overeating, feeling sluggish because the only thing you do is eat all day, so you have to tailor it.

    “We’ve done a lot of work in that space with individuals, to make sure they feel good going into the game when it’s that late.

    “It can feel like a very long day when you’re waiting around all day and eating is one of the only things to do.”

     

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    Ireland’s squad often enjoy a post-match beer, while players were pictured drinking wine during their time off after beating reigning world champions South Africa.

     

    Asked about alcohol consumption, Gardner said: “We don’t have rules, we have standards and the lads know those standards. They create those standards.

    “They’re very professional, they also need to look after their own bodies.

    “They know the time when they can slightly relax.

    “They can do that with food, they can do that if they want to have a drink but they also understand what’s ahead of them.”

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    The West Indies, riding on Matthews' brilliance, posted a defendable total of 147-3 in their 20 overs. However, the opposition seemed unfazed by the challenge and chased down the target in 13.2 overs, losing only two wickets in the process, to finish the game on 149-2.

    Skipper Alyssa Healy scored 56 off 29 while Tahlia McGrath finished on 60 not out from 32 deliveries to guide the home team to the opening win.

    Although the day belonged to the home team, Matthews won countless hearts with her valiant effort. Head Coach Shane Deitz remarked, "Magnificent innings, she really deserved the hundred. It's one of the best innings I've seen for a long time. She's been brilliant around the group as a leader, batter, and bowler."

    Deitz also touched upon the team's overall performance, sharing his perspective on the outcome. He added, "I think we were a bit short as the wicket started playing better in the second half. It was a pretty good total, and maybe if we had taken our chances while fielding, things could have been different."

    No surprise that Matthews was the Player of the Match for her 99 not out and bowling figures of 2-0-17-1.

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  • Pretty much a World Cup final – Darcy Graham and Scotland ready for Ireland Pretty much a World Cup final – Darcy Graham and Scotland ready for Ireland

    Darcy Graham insisted Scotland are ready to “go to a dark place” as they bid to defy recent history in their mouth-watering qualification shootout with Ireland in Paris.

    The Scots secured the bonus-point win they required against Romania with a 12-try, 84-0 destruction of the eastern European minnows.

    To progress to the last eight Gregor Townsend’s side must defeat Ireland in next Saturday’s final Pool B fixture, either with a bonus point or by denying the world’s top-ranked side a losing bonus.

    The Scots have won only one of the last 13 meetings between the sides and have lost the last eight, but Graham is adamant his team – ranked fifth in the world – are ready to dig deep for what would be one of the biggest wins in their history.

    “It’s winner takes all, we want to get out of the group and they want to get out of the group so both teams will be going for it,” said the prolific Scotland wing. “It’s going to be a hell of a game.

    “It’s do or die now, it’s pretty much a World Cup final for us. We’ll take huge confidence from Romania and now we need to get our preparation right.

    “We’re going to have to go to a dark place but the boys are up for it. It’s an exciting week. There’s going to be massive support from Scotland and Ireland fans so there’s going to be a real buzz going into this game.”

    In their last meeting in the Six Nations in March, Scotland led briefly in the first half and were within a point of the Irish until Andy Farrell’s men pulled away to win 22-7 at Murrayfield.

    Scotland have shown for long periods of their three matches against France this year that they can live with the top teams in the world.

    “We’ve got the capabilities to beat any team in the world but we have to get things right not just for 40 minutes or 60 minutes, but for 80 minutes,” Graham said.

    “We have to take our opportunities when they come. We might only get two or three opportunities and we have to nail them.”

    Graham’s four-try haul against Romania elevated him from sixth to joint-second on Scotland’s all-time try-scoring list. He is now level with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger on 24 and just three shy of record-holder Stuart Hogg, who retired this year on 27.

    “Yeah, I’m closing in on it but I’ll get there when I get there,” he said. “I’ve added four on to my tally so I’m happy.”

    Grant Gilchrist – who captained the Scots against Romania – has no doubt his long-time Edinburgh club-mate will soon break the record.

    “If I was a betting man, I’d say yes,” said the lock.

    “He was outstanding against Romania. I’ve played a lot of games with him for Scotland and Edinburgh and you know exactly what you’re going to get with him week in, week out.

    “Some of the tries he scored were world-class, and I’m sure he’ll keep doing that as long as he plays.”

    Scotland scored six tries in each half against Romania in a match that saw them fall just five points short of their record World Cup victory, 89-0 against the Ivory Coast in 1995.

    Gilchrist said: “We knew we needed five points but we needed more than that, we needed a performance that was a step forward for us as a group, and I think we got that.

    “We know everybody will big up next weekend, it’s huge. Our preparation will reflect that and we’ll give absolutely everything.”

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