Zak Crawley’s maiden test ton led England to 332/4 on a blustery first day at the Rose Bowl that belonged to the hosts.
Crawley and Buttler put the pressure on
The number three had racked up 171 by the close, including a big partnership with Jos Buttler, to turn the screw on Pakistan after England won the toss and elected to bat. It was only the second test ton by an Englishman batting at three since Joe Root against the same opposition in 2016.
Crawley's chanceless knock was accompanied by a powerful yet restrained innings from Buttler. The pair put on 205 for the fifth wicket as Pakistan, despite a promising spell after lunch, failed to bowl with the same menace as they did at Old Trafford. Crawley looked perpetually unflappable and brought up his ton with a neat punch through the off side for two, having had to wait on 97* at the tea break.
Buttler himself remained unbeaten on 87 at stumps, no doubt eyeing a second test century in the morning. It was a well paced, innings, if slightly more chancey than Crawley at the other end. His half century was still an imperious knock, full of powerful boundary hitting- including one over off Yasir Shah that went for 16, with two sixes straight back over the spinner’s head.
There was one scary moment as, having settled in and made a start, he left one from Yasir that didn’t quite spin as much as anticipated- thankfully it just whistled past the off stump. There are only two kinds of leaves, after all.
Crawley’s stylish ton was punctuated regularly by some nice drives through the off side and clips and sweeps through the on side. After being beaten on the outside edge on a couple of occasions early on in his innings, the 22 year old looked comfortable and scored quickly, reached his 50 on the last ball of the morning with a gorgeous off drive.
England make steady start
By the time he had reached his 50, Crawley had been joined at the crease by captain Root. Rory Burns (6) had fallen to Shaheen Afridi in the fifth over, the left armer squaring him up with a fantastic delivery that moved away off the surface for Shan Masood to complete a good low catch.
It was otherwise a reasonable first hour for England, who had lost just one wicket with the pair of Dom Sibley and Crawley bringing up a fifty partnership in decent time. Sibley had made a start and looked comfortable on 22, including some trademark clips through the leg side. England had cruised along at four an over up until Sibley advanced down the track to Yasir and playing across a straight one. He was given out and a review only showed he was plumb LBW.
Crawley meanwhile had made a jaunty start to his innings, approaching his 50 rapidly as he built handy partnerships with Sibley then Root. His first ball showed a sign of things to come as he clipped a length ball on leg stump through square for four, a shot that would feature regularly in his knock. After Root joined him at the crease, with a tricky period ahead at lunch, he reigned it in slightly and the pair were happy to see the session through at a slightly less accelerated rate.
Pakistan fight back briefly before Crawley and Buttler take the wheel
Root, like Sibley, coasted into the 20s, and reached 29 with a well controlled pull shot before the very next ball from Naseem Shah jagged away off a length, taking the outside edge through to a diving Mohammed Rizwan. In truth there was little Root, who had looked in good touch once again before getting out, could do about it.
Ollie Pope could only add three to the total before Yasir bowled him with a quicker one through the gates. It was a particularly disappointing dismissal for Pope who had been caught out playing back to Yasir earlier in the series, only to repeat it this time round. After England enjoyed the better of the morning session, Pakistan had gained a semblance of control in the first 40 minutes of the afternoon with those two wickets.
That control however lasted about as long as Pope did as the crease, as then came the huge, possibly match defining partnership between Buttler and Crawley. The pair took England from 127-4, and the brink of an unsatisfactory first innings total, to a comfortable 332-4. They will aim to kick on and add another hundred or so, and if they are looking a day or two ahead eyeing up what could be a healthy first innings lead. It was a difficult day for Pakistan who by the end looked ragged and out of ideas against two batsmen in full control. Advantage England, but they need to make it count in the morning.