Day 1 of 5: England 506-4 (Z Crawley 122, O Pope 108, B Duckett 107, H Brook 101no) v Pakistan
After all the sickness bug drama of the previous day, England did not so much head for the traps as positively fly out of them. Their first day of Test cricket in Pakistan for 17 years had the digits on the scoreboard in Rawalpindi spinning like the wheels on a fruit machine, the cherries appearing on the middle of English willow as a succession of records tumbled.
At the close, as the woozy winter sun made its final descent, the tourists had posted a quite remarkable 506 for four from 73 overs and all those wondering how their new approach would fare on its first overseas assignment had an unequivocal answer. Centuries from Zak Crawley (122 from 111 balls), Ben Duckett (107 from 110), Ollie Pope (108 from 104) and Harry Brook (101 not out from 81) suggested their collective appetite for quick runs was unaffected.
Crawley’s 86-ball century was the fastest by an English Test opener, Graham Gooch’s 95-ball effort against India in 1993 surpassed, while he and Duckett combined for England’s most bountiful opening session, reaching lunch 174 for no loss from 27 overs. The previous record, 169 for none at Trent Bridge in 1938, came from 42 overs, which sounds rather pedestrian by comparison.
But the feat that stood out above all others was a collective one, England eclipsing the 494 for six scored by Australia against South Africa at Sydney in 1910-11 to make it the highest Test total of all time on an opening day. Ben Stokes was the one to break it, launching debutant Mohammad Ali for six in an 18-run final over before he and Brook walked off for the day.
This was a good toss for Stokes to win, no question, and not simply because of the chino-beige pitch in front of him. Batting first allowed those still recovering from the viral outbreak additional time with their feet up, with only the stricken Ben Foakes missing out from the original XI as the wicketkeeping gloves were passed to the more part-time Pope.
But even considering the benign surface, only briefly transcended by Haris Rauf after lunch when he uprooted Crawley’s off stump with a beautiful reverse-swinging howitzer, this was some statement. It wasn’t wild slogging either, the first six of the day coming in the final over before tea when Brook rocked back and sent the leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood over midwicket.
Rather it was a display of controlled, positive strokeplay and some particularly inventive sweeps – orthodox and reverse – from Duckett and Pope. England slotted 73 fours along the crisp outfield, earning appreciative applause from an 8,000-strong crowd that had walked in from the bustle of Murree Road and passed the countless security checks en route.
No Foakes meant his close friend Will Jacks joining Liam Livingstone in making a Test debut but the newcomers could fondle their box-fresh blue caps as Crawley and Duckett amassed 223 for the first wicket inside 36 overs, their initial century stand taking 13.5 overs to make it the fastest in England’s history. The record broken came during the new era, too, Crawley and Alex Lees hitting three figures in 17.2 overs against South Africa at the Oval in September.
It was clear from the outset Crawley was comfortable, picking off 14 runs from Naseem Shah’s opening over and enjoying some short-arm pulls off Rauf. Indeed, bar one leg-break from Zahid that beat the outside edge, it was not until the right-hander was on 99 after lunch that his first heart-in-mouth moment came. Struck in front by Naseem and given out on the field, the review showed it was missing leg by a whisker.
Three balls later, Crawley was celebrating his third Test century, drilling Naseem through extra cover for his 19th four. Up in the England dressingroom, as team-mates rose as one in appreciation, Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones was blasting out of Brendon McCullum’s hi-fi; for an opener who spent most of the summer under the microscope it was rather poetic.
At the other end Duckett also shrugged off the beast of burden, his first Test innings in six years delivering a maiden century as he pulled Haris through square. It was a knock full of inventive manipulation and meaty cuts, the type Stokes was clearly expecting when he dubbed the diminutive left-hander “a captain’s nightmare”.
The afternoon continued the carnage, reaping 158 runs, but three wickets did fall. After Haris whipped his home crowd into a frenzy with a slice of reverse swing magic to remove Crawley, the largely plundered Zahid managed to trap Duckett and Joe Root (23) lbw on the sweep. The latter was at the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and told Martin Brundle he wouldn’t mind batting on the track; he will have been fuming to miss out on the next best thing.
Instead, from 286 for three in 46 overs, it was Pope and Brook who made hay during the final session, trowelling 174 runs on to the total. Pope was typically princely and compact in compiling his third Test century from 90 balls, while Brook ensured Jonny Bairstow’s absence wasn’t felt. The Yorkshireman’s blitz to an 80-ball maiden century – England’s third quickest – featured six fours off an over of Saud Shakeel’s part-time spin as Babar Azam searched for answers
Pakistan’s bowling figures were in flames by the close. Zahid had leaked 160 runs from 23 overs, while his fellow debutant Ali, the thriftiest, had largely stung like a butterfly until he finally got one to jag into Pope’s pads. Every day of this historic Test match will be shortened by bad light but, like Withnail haring down the motorway from Penrith, England are making time. – Guardian