February 4, 2023

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Pakistan v England: Crawley, Duckett, Pope and Brook make hundreds

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Four batters crashed hundreds as England piled up the runs on a scintillating first day of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.

On a historic occasion – England’s first Test in Pakistan for 17 years – the tourists broke records with some breath-taking batting.

Zak Crawley’s 122 included reaching three figures from 86 balls, the fastest Test hundred by an England opener.

Ben Duckett marked his first Test for six years with his maiden hundred, making 107 as the openers shared 233 for the first wicket.

When they fell, Ollie Pope picked up the baton with 108, adding 176 with Harry Brook, who stole the show by thrashing England’s third-fastest hundred of all time.

Brook made his first Test ton from 80 balls and took England to 506-4, the most runs any team has scored on the first day of a Test, even though only 75 overs were possible because of fading light.

All this after the match was given the go-ahead to begin only two and a half hours before the scheduled start following an illness that ripped through the England camp on Wednesday.

From the XI that was named on Tuesday, only wicketkeeper Ben Foakes was deemed unfit to play, leaving Pope to take over behind the stumps and allowing Will Jacks to come in for his Test debut alongside fellow spin-bowling all-rounder Liam Livingstone.

England light up historic day

England halted touring Pakistan after gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team in 2009. After almost two decades away, this was a spectacular return.

If there were any doubts that England could replicate the swashbuckling style that brought them so much success in the home summer in away conditions, they were banished with some dazzling strokeplay.

Whatever label this method is given – England do not like the term ‘Bazball’ – it was not cavalier or reckless, but a perfect execution of positive intent on the flattest of pitches.

Crawley and Duckett added 100 in 13.5 overs, England’s fastest century opening stand. The 174 runs they had at lunch was an England record for the first day of a Test. No other England team had ever reached 300 faster, no team in history has got to 400 or 500 quicker.

England were helped by hospitality from the hosts. A Pakistan side containing four debutants were lacklustre with the ball and woeful in the field.

With Rawalpindi a notoriously difficult ground on which to force a result, the lightning speed of England’s scoring has given them a superb chance to go ahead in the three-match series.

Openers leave Pakistan stunned

Crawley took 14 runs from the first over of the match and England never looked back.

Supported by captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum through a run of low scores in the summer, this was a high-class repayment of faith with sweet drives, clips and pulls.

Given out lbw on 99 to Naseem Shah, Crawley successfully reviewed and moved to his third Test hundred two balls later.

Duckett struggled in the four Tests he played in 2016, yet the Nottinghamshire left-hander looked entirely at home, cutting the pace bowlers, then sweeping and reverse-sweeping the spinners.

When he went to his maiden ton, it marked the first time both England openers had made a hundred in the same Test innings since 2013.

Duckett was lbw on review reverse-sweeping debutant leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood, while Crawley was bowled by Haris Rauf, but their departures gave no respite to Pakistan.

Pope and Brook kick on

When Stokes was one of the England players to go down ill, Pope was in line to step up as skipper, but instead he has found himself as wicketkeeper and the owner of a third Test hundred.

He got off the mark with a reverse sweep for four, sliding into the slipstream created by Crawley and Duckett. Only Joe Root, who played a poor sweep at Mahmood to be lbw for 23, missed out.

Pope’s ton from 90 balls seemed relatively pedestrian by what was going on around him, with Brook pulverising the weary Pakistan attack.

Like Pope, he played wristy strokes, twice pulling sixes over mid-wicket then hitting every delivery of an over from off-spinner Saud Shakeel for four.

When he had 89 from 66 balls, he was on course to beat Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year record for the fastest England century, made off 76 deliveries.

He slowed up around the time Pope was lbw on review to Mohammad Ali, but as the light began to slip away, Brook drove Naseem for four to reach his ton and there was still time for Stokes to belt 34 not out from only 15 balls.

‘An extraordinary display of batting’

Former England spinner Vic Marks on Test Match Special: “It was an extraordinary display of batting. It wasn’t as if they went searching for big shots. It’s an extraordinary scorecard with all four centurions playing with such certainty.”

“It takes an unusual state of mind to just go for it in a strange conditions where they haven’t been in so long.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “It’s one of those days where it’s almost impossible to encapsulate what we’ve seen.”

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