An excellent undefeated fifth-wicket stand worth 205 between Zak Crawley (171) and Jos Buttler (87) has taken England into a commanding position on Day 1 of the third and final Test against Pakistan at Ageas Bowl, Southampton. Their close of play score of 332-4 spells, is a fantastic recovery after wobbling at the fall of the fourth wicket.
Winning the toss for the first time in the series, England captain Joe Root decided to bat first. Jofra Archer was back in the side, replacing Sam Curran whereas Pakistan remained unchanged from the previous The cool, overcast blustery conditions were an added challenge for the Pakistan new-ball bowlers. It was evident from the outset this pitch was a touch slower, compared to the last one at this venue.
In the fifth over of the morning, Shaheen Afridi, bowling into the wind, sent back Rory Burns, to a sharp low catch at fourth slip by Shan Masood. The left-handed batsman was left to reflect on his fourth low score of the series. Dom Sibley and Crawley, with a 91-run stand in the previous Test to lean on, were positive in their intent and carried the score to 48-1 (13 overs) at the water break and the 50-run stand only needed 67 balls. Spinner Yasir Shah, expensive but got a timely breakthrough with a flat and full-length leg-break that trapped Sibley in front of his stumps
With a sweetly-time boundary off the first ball he faced, Crawley raced into his forties but with wickets falling on the other side had to hold back his range of strokes. He got to his fifty on the stroke of lunch with England at 91-2. In the second session he could watch captain Root, getting out to a perfect leg-cutter from Naseem Shah and Ollie Pope, playing back to Yasir and having his stumps rattled. He overtook his Test best of 76 he scored against the West Indies at this venue, earlier in the summer, and today was asked to steady his side when the fourth wicket fell at 127.
Buttler, from the word go, looked in good touch and well prepared for a battle against Pakistan bowlers, who now recognize him as a dangerous opponent. The 22-year old Kent batsman, Crawley, on 97 at tea, reached his maiden Test hundred, in the first over after the break, with a drive for two off Mohammad Abbas, having faced 171 balls and 11 hits to the fence. An impressive knock, including sweetly timed drives and after the milestone, he continued to play all balls on merit and punish the loose deliveries.
Buttler, happy to play second fiddle to Crawley, hit Yasir for two straight sixes and a driven four in the same over to take the fifth wicket stand beyond hundred runs. Just like on the last day of the first Test at Old Trafford, Pakistan bowling attack went bit flat in the final afternoon. Buttler’s fifty – his 18th in Tests – is another innings of merit, scored under pressure. Crawley’s 150 came off 233 balls with 17 fours and two batsmen at the crease have ensured England can now aim to score beyond 450.