Zak Crowley saw the signs, but Trent Boult opened his eyes

Zak Crowley knows what’s coming. Joe Root, on the non-striker end, knows what’s coming. Everyone in Headingley’s sold-out crowd knows what’s to come: the man in line at the bar, the steward facing the stand, and the member of Yorkshire who has been swept away in the afternoon sun. And none of them can do anything about it.

Trent Boult Stands on top of his mark and is about to bowl an inswinger. Crowley knows this, because he has seen her shape balls away with her left hand. alex lees and right hand ollie pope: The first kisses the top of the off stump, the second kicks it off the ground.

He knows it as Kane Williamson leaves cover wide open with a huge gap between point and mid-off. He knows it because Boult openly, brazenly hints at Williamson that he is dragging Crowley across the crease. He knows this because he has conceded three of the first four balls of the over with no shots, each of them an outswinger, and one who has defended his line. He knows it because, clearly, how can he not?

But Crowley has a problem. Already twice in this series, he was left behind when Boult bowled him a wobble seam ball, or as he called it a “three-quarter” ball. He has scored 56 runs in the series and averages 27.21 after 23 Tests. As Chris Eggman’s character in Noah Baumbach’s film says kick and shout: “What I was able to pass off as a bad summer can now potentially turn into a bad life.”

Boult runs in and bowls an inswinger, perhaps the most unavoidable inswinger he has ever bowled. It’s full, it’s straight, and it hits the middle-and-leg stump, three-quarters of the way up. Crowley’s bat comes down at an angle, as he shapes it to drive it back down to the ground toward mid-on, and heads straight to the dressing room, bowling through the gate.

It is the final touch on the astonishing spell of the new ball bowling, the kind of unstoppable, unacceptable spell that only left-handed batsmen can produce: for Shaheen Shah Afridi in T20s and Mitchell Starc in ODIs, Trent in Tests Read the bolt. Since Boult’s Test debut, more than a decade ago, he has bowled to 72 batsmen, more than any other fast bowler.

The scorecard is exceptional: AZ Lees b Boult 4, Z Crawley b Boult 6, OJG Pope b Boult 5. Top-order batsmen to be caught behind or in LBW in Test cricket; England’s top three have all been bowled. They are 17 for 3 after 6.5 overs and Boult has 3 for 9, without needing anyone else – a wicketkeeper, a fielder, an umpire – to help him. Of those nine runs, the first four came from an outside edge that was ripped off the hands of Daryl Mitchell at the slips.

That outside edge came from Lees, who lost his off-stump three balls later. Boult started off short on good length, testing Lee’s decision whether to play or leave, attack or defend. He flashed hard on the second ball, which flew higher and faster for Mitchell, and through his fingers for four.

Boult’s fifth ball was fuller, but still only a fraction of a conventional good length. Hitting the outside edge of Lees, he pitched a full face, and knocked it back over the top of his off-stump. His celebration – gently high-fiving his teammates with a frowned brow as if to suggest that this near-perfect outswinger at 86mph/138kph was nothing out of the ordinary – portrayed a man who knew That there was more to come.

Pope suffered a diet of inswingers, clipping one off his pad for four, but otherwise struggled with Boult’s high-powered cocktail of inswingers and accuracy at a fast pace. Just before being dismissed, Pope jammed late to cover the swing, pulling a punch to the off side; For the next, he came forward to drive, then looked around to see his off-stump lying halfway to Tom Blundell as the ball zipped back through the gate.

England’s response to Boult’s swing – in keeping with his new style – was to swing himself. He hit six boundaries in the second half of his spell, taking 34 off his next four overs, leaving him with surreal, unimpressive figures of 8-2-43-3 when he was replaced by Tim Southee: it was neither subtle. Nor reassuring, and by the time his spell was over, England were 69 for 69.

When he returned for the second spell, Jonny Bairstow and Jamie Overton had completely changed the game. How different would the day have been if Bairstow’s French cut to fine leg hit the base of his leg stump instead of slanting it from the inside edge?

“She’s world class, isn’t she?” Daryl Mitchell said. “That spell-up top showed how good he really is. It’s great to see him get some success. He’s obviously done seriously well with Rajasthan in the IPL and has to be seen coming out of here a few days later and more Tests.” It’s really good to see cricket dominating.”

Bolt told The Cricket Monthly Last year That his gameplan has always been as simple as “trying to get the batsmen across the stumps, and then swinging it and trying to hit them on the pads”. Batsmen always know what will happen when Boult takes the new ball. The problem is doing something about it.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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