RAWALPINDI: In a superb display of belligerent batting, England amassed a record first-day score of 506-4 in the first Test against Pakistan here at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
Four England players made quickfire hundreds — the first time four batters scored centuries on day one of a Test — in what remained a forgettable day for home bowlers who toiled on an unresponsive pitch.
It was also the first time four batters scored hundreds on day one of a Test match.
Openers Zak Crawley (122) and Ben Duckett (107) set the tone with brisk centuries against a toothless Pakistan bowling attack which included three debutants — pacers Haris Rauf and Mohammad Ali, and leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood — before Ollie Pope (108) and Harry Brook (101 not out) added to the hosts’ misery in front of around 6,000 spectators including some English supporters.
Captain Ben Stokes was unbeaten on 34 when bad light stopped play, as England broke the century-old record for the most runs on the opening day of a Test, surpassing Australia’s 494-6 against South Africa at Sydney way back in December 1910.
Will Jacks was brought in to replace wicket-keeper Ben Foakes, with Pope acting as gloveman.
The hosts were forced to make a change to their original playing XI after several of their players were laid low by an unspecified virus that also threatened to defer the start of the match.
England after winning the toss straightaway adopted “Bazball” mode, the brand of ultra-aggressive style of cricket taken from the nickname of their head coach Brendon McCullum.
Crawley showed his intent right from the very first over, hitting three boundaries off fast bowler Naseem Shah, and completing his half-century off mere 38 balls.
Crawley and Duckett in a perfect right-left combination gave the tourists a mammoth 233-run start — an England record for the first wicket against Pakistan – off just 35.4 overs. The dynamic partnership surpassed the 1962 stand of 198 between openers Geoff Pullar and Bob Barber in Dhaka.
Crawley, on 99, got an lbw decision against him overturned and carried on to strike an 86-ball century, the fastest by an English Test opener.
England maintained their fast scoring from both ends as Duckett, playing his first Test in six years, completed his first international century. After the first session produced a whopping 174 runs for the tourists off 27 overs, the eventful second session was more competitive, with Zahid and Haris claiming wickets between them.
Zahid trapped Duckett lbw as the opener attempted to play a reverse sweep. The opener struck 15 fours.
Crawley departed in the next over, bowled through the gate by right-armer Haris, after a brilliant knock featuring 21 fours.
Joe Root, world’s top-ranked Test batter, could not post a big score on the lifeless pitch while miscuing a sweep shot against Zahid to for a 31-ball 23 that included three fours.
Pope fell, trapped by Ali, after completing his third Test hundred but there was no relief for Pakistan as right-handed Brook launched an extraordinary attack on Saud on his way to an 80-ball hundred. The right-hander smashed six fours in an over from slow left-arm spinner Saud Shakeel, another debutant.
“They were all bad balls, so I tried to put them away really,” Brook said of Saud’s over. “I was probably happier with that than my 100 to be honest.”
Brook, who has struck 14 fours and two sixes so far, became only the fourth batter to score six consecutive boundaries in a Test, following West Indians Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka.
Babar and his men should be ready for another challenging outing on Friday as England are eyeing more runs.
“It was obviously a very good wicket to bat on,” said Crawley. “Hopefully, we can go on tomorrow and get more runs.”
Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq seemed not satisfied with the docile track.
“The pitch was similar to the one we had against Australia [earlier this year], but it should have been a bit more supportive,” said Saqlain, referring to the Test that yielded 1,187 runs for the loss of just 14 wickets over five days.
Pope was very pleased with the start England had taken.
“It was the ideal start to the tour,” Pope told Sky Sports. “It started from the get go — 14 from the first over. It put them under pressure and they looked like they panicked a little bit.
“It looked like there wasn’t anywhere they could bowl to those two. It was a perfect way for them to set us up for a series.”
The second and third Tests of the series will be staged in Multan (Dec 9-13) and Karachi (Dec 17-21).
ENGLAND (1st innings): Z. Crawley b Haris 122 B. Duckett lbw b Zahid 107 O. Pope lbw b Ali 108 J. Root lbw b Zahid 23 H. Brook not out 101 B. Stokes not out 34 EXTRAS: (B-2, LB-6, NB-2, W-1) 11 TOTAL: (for four wickets, 75 overs) 506 STILL TO BAT: W. Jacks, L. Livingstone, O. Robinson, J. Leach, J. Anderson FALL OF WICKETS: 1-233 (Duckett), 2-235 (Crawley), 3-286 (Root), 4-462 (Pope) BOWLING: Naseem 15-0-96-0, Ali 17-1-96-1 (nb2), Haris 13-1-78-1 (w1), Zahid 23-1-160-2, Salman 5-0-38-0, Saud 2-0-30-0
PAKISTAN: Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan, Salman Ali Agha, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Ali, Zahid Mahmood
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2022