|Third Test, Ageas Bowl (day one of five)|
|England 332-4 (90 overs): Crawley 171*, Buttler 87*, Yasir 2-107|
|Pakistan: Yet to bat|
Zak Crawley’s sparkling maiden Test century put England in command of the third and final Test against Pakistan on day one at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton.
The 22-year-old, playing in his eighth Test, oozed elegance for his 171 not out.
He shared an unbroken partnership of 205 with Jos Buttler, who continued his resurgence with the bat by making an unbeaten 87.
That guided England from the difficulty of 127-4 to 332-4, a position from which they are primed to win the series.
On a blustery day at the Ageas Bowl, Pakistan had to battle a fiercely strong wind that whistled down the ground for the entire day.
At the end of it, they were left facing a huge battle to avoid their first series defeat by England since 2010.
England take step towards series win
After the second Test on this ground was ruined by bad weather, there was a sense of foreboding when rain arrived just as the captains walked out to toss up.
When the shower passed, England skipper Joe Root took the opportunity to bat on the slow, dry pitch while at the same time sending Pakistan out to field in the miserable conditions.
With the sun making only fleeting appearances and the wind swirling around the empty stadium, it was Crawley who illuminated proceedings in an innings that gradually sucked the enthusiasm from the tourists.
There were periods either side of lunch when the contest between bat and ball was even, not least when Root and Ollie Pope fell in the space of four overs.
Buttler, though, arrived first to support, then came to life in an evening session where England rattled along at almost five an over.
The second new ball was also dispatched as Pakistan gradually lost their way.
By the close, England had already piled on enough to be able to take advantage of a pitch that could deteriorate, perhaps with some uneven bounce for the extra pace of Jofra Archer, restored to the side in place of Sam Curran.
Crawley’s dazzling display
Crawley was left out when England rebalanced their team because of an injury that prevented Ben Stokes from bowling. He returned with a half-century in the second Test, then produced this performance to cement his place.
He announced his arrival by clipping his first ball for four, and proceeded to play all around the ground with a level of strokeplay none of his team-mates came close to matching.
Dripping in class, Crawley played drives of all kinds, guides to third man, glances off the pads, took on the fast bowlers when they dropped short and swept the spinners.
The Kent right-hander was able to move up and down the gears depending on the control exerted by the Pakistan bowlers, scoring 45 from his first 46 deliveries, then settling into a more even tempo.
Crawley pushed Mohammad Abbas into the covers to reach three figures, celebrating with a modest raise of the bat and a kiss of the badge on his helmet.
By that time Buttler has eased into the slipstream, going on to loft the leg-spin of Yasir Shah for two magnificent straight sixes.
Crawley offered a half chance back to bowler Fawad Alam on 159, but remains with the opportunity for a double century, and Buttler is closing in on his second Test ton.
Pakistan pushed to the brink
Pakistan were on course to win the first Test before the heroics of Buttler and Chris Woakes, and the tourists had managed a competitive total in the truncated second Test.
Here, they were rarely in the contest, and it would take a monumental turnaround for the tourists to preserve their strong recent record against England.
Though Rory Burns edged Shaheen Afridi to fourth slip and Yasir, employed early to bowl into the wind, had an advancing Dom Sibley lbw, Pakistan had little control with the new ball. They did not manage a maiden until almost two hours into the day.
They improved after lunch and were given an opening by wholehearted 17-year-old Naseem Shah. The pace bowler nipped one away to take Root’s edge, with Yasir following up by scurrying through the bamboozled Pope.
From there, though, they had little threat, scant discipline and decreasing energy.
The Fawad drop saw shoulders slump further, and even though the new ball caused England the occasional uncomfortable moment, Pakistan were flattened by the time a rare full day of play was completed.
‘England’s best day of the summer’ – what they said
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “The run chase at Old Trafford was dramatic, but this has been England’s best day of the summer.
“It was the manner of which the partnership developed from the get-go: just playing good Test cricket. And Zak Crawley, you just can’t see a better century.”
Test Match Special’s Aatif Nawaz: “It wasn’t as much case of poor bowling from Pakistan as it was an exceptional batting performance from England.
“Jos Buttler and Zak Crawley put on a jarring display of concentration and dominance the likes of which we haven’t seen too often this summer.”