SOUTHAMPTON-Zak Crawley’s maiden Test century and an unbeaten 87 from Jos Buttler guided England to 332 for four at stumps on the opening day of the third and final Test against Pakistan at the Rose Bowl on Friday.
The aggressive Crawley struck 19 fours in his unbeaten 171, to notch up what is just the fourth first-class ton of his career. He has put on an unbeaten 205 for the fifth wicket with Buttler to rescue England from a precarious position. After winning the toss and electing to bat, England was teetering at 127 for four before the pair steadied the innings, with Crawley sounding his intention with a four from his first delivery.
After Rory Burns collected his first boundary streakily, Shaheen Afridi got him for the third time as Shan Masood took a terrific low catch at slips, handing Pakistan their first breakthrough. While Dom Sibley kept tiring the bowlers, Zak Crawley displayed signs of intent from the get-go. The duo combined for a 61-run stand before Michael Gough made one of the best umpiring decisions. Sibley danced down the track against Yasir Shah as the ball ended up hitting the pads.
The batsman challenged the decision; however, hawk-eye suggested that it was stone dead. Joe Root played some enterprising strokes; however, Naseem Shah plucked him after a 41-run stand with a nagging delivery that the captain edged to the keeper. Three overs later, Shah grabbed his second in the form of Ollie Pope, whose stumps were smashed with a quicker delivery.
By the time Jos Buttler arrived, England found themselves in a very familiar spot. Nevertheless, Crawley, at 67, looked unshakable. From the other end, Buttler continued his rich vein of form after striking 75 in the fourth innings in Manchester. There were hardly any nervous moments attached to their partnership. By the time tea arrived, Zak Crawley was only three short of a maiden Test hundred while the partnership surged to 57.
In the final ball of the first over after tea, Crawley reached the landmark with a couple to the cover region. After ten overs, Buttler punished Yasir Shah with a couple of sixes and a four to make it 16 in an over. It also brought their century partnership as Azhar Ali, Pakistan captain looked out of ideas. Five overs later, Buttler reached an assuring fifty off 84 deliveries.
In the 77th over, Crawley brought up his maiden 150 plus score in Tests as the bowlers remained clueless in their approach. As Shaheen Afridi started the first of the final ten overs with the new ball, he overstepped three times in a row to concede 17 runs. In the last ten overs, the pair of Crawley and Buttler muscled 44 runs as Buttler was 13 adrift of his second Test hundred and Crawley 29 away from a double. England reached a commanding 332-4 as their stand grew to a jaw-dropping 202 in only 51 overs.
ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:
RJ Burns c Shan b Shaheen Afridi 6
DP Sibley lbw b Yasir Shah….. 22
Z Crawley not out……………….. 171
JE Root c Rizwan b Naseem Shah 29
OJ Pope b Yasir Shah…………… 3
JC Buttler not out…………………. 87
EXTRAS: (lb 11, nb 3)………….. 14
TOTAL: (4 wkts, 90 overs)…… 332
FOW: 1-12, 2-73, 3-114, 4-127
BOWLING: Shaheen Shah Afridi 18-2-71-1, Mohammad Abbas 21-3-52-0, Yasir Shah 28-3-107-2, Naseem Shah 17-4-66-1, Fawad Alam 6-0-25-0.
PAKISTAN: Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali (c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah
UMPIRES: M Gough, R Illingworth
TV UMPIRE: Richard Kettleborough
MATCH REFEREE: Chris Broad