England’s record-breaking day one of first Test against Pakistan – runs galore and talent flourishing | Cricket News

You can take your pick of the myriad of statistics from a record-breaking day one of the first Test in Rawalpindi to show just how much England’s batters dominated against Pakistan.

For starters, there was the total of 506-4 before bad light brought an early close after 75 overs – the first time in Test history over 500 runs had been scored on an opening day.

Then, the centuries from Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope and Harry Brook, which marked the first time four batters had reached the magical milestone on day one of a Test – and that is before you get into the specifics and granular details of individual innings. More of those in a bit, though.

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Highlights from day one of the first Test between Pakistan and England in Rawalpindi.

The caveat is that a flat pitch in Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium offered favourable batting conditions which England skipper Ben Stokes was eager to seize upon after winning the toss. Nevertheless, one of his predecessors Mike Atherton was still astounded by what he saw as the tourists piled on the runs.

“It’s a sign of an era which is changing, rather than the specifics, but I’ve not seen anything so dominant from England,” Atherton told Sky Sports.

“You are determined by your conditions to some degree and the way the ball moves around for openers has been very tough in the past few years and therefore you have to play the conditions.

“But these conditions allowed Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley to express themselves to the fullest and both played superbly.

Stats from England’s record-breaking day

  • 174 – England’s score at lunch, their highest in the first session of a Test
  • 83 – Number of balls it took England to reach three figures, new record
  • 86 – Number of balls it took Crawley to reach hundred – fastest by an England opener
  • 6.44 – England’s run rate, the highest first session total in CricViz’s database, which stretches back to 2008

“Pakistan were on the back foot right from the outset…so you knew straight away about England’s intent. It’s a combination of factors: a good pitch, England’s intent, an inexperienced Pakistan attack who bowled poorly – combine that with the incredible intent, skill and talent England have in their ranks. But even so, 500 is still pretty hard to believe.”

The tone was set from the very first over of the match as openers Crawley and Duckett belted 14 runs, with the former going on to notch the fastest Test century by an opener in England’s history from just 86 balls, eventually falling lbw for 122 from 111 balls, with 21 fours.

It was an impressive riposte to those who still question Crawley’s place in the team, underlining the faith placed in the Kent right-hander by head coach Brendon McCullum and Stokes. Equally as notable, though, was the display from Duckett.

The Nottinghamshire left-hander – who featured in all seven of England’s T20s in Pakistan in September and October – was picked to open the batting on his first Test appearance for six years, having only passed 50 once in his four previous caps, which came in more difficult conditions in Bangladesh and India.

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Watch the best bits from Zak Crawley’s incredible century, the fastest by an England opener in Test cricket.

Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara says the decision to stick by Crawley and put faith in his undoubted skills eventually flourishing, and the call to allow Duckett another opportunity in the longest format, reflect the will of McCullum and Stokes to support natural ability.

“What they’ve gone about supporting and picking, is talent,” Sangakkara told Sky Sports. “You identify talent then you have an environment where they can be themselves and blossom, then the coaching and management know how to manage the person but get them better skill-wise.

“Ben Duckett said ‘this is the best time ever to come back and play Test cricket’ – these are the same players who, a few years ago, someone would have said: ‘They’re not red-ball players, they don’t have the skill to do the hard yards, graft it out’ or whatever.

“What they’ve done here is created an atmosphere where skill is No 1 and any skill which is high enough to play any format, if it fits in with the ethos of the team playing attractive, attacking Test cricket, they will be picked.

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Nasser Hussain speaks to Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley after they both hit centuries against Pakistan.

“It’s great, the atmosphere they’ve created to leave the doors open for players who were once thought beyond Test cricket or not good enough for Test cricket technically. It’s just about effectiveness and being able to do what the team need you to do.”

Even after the two openers fell, Pope and Brook were able to carry on where they left off, with Pope racing to 108 from 104 balls and Brook building on his impressive displays in white-ball cricket to end the day unbeaten on 101 not out from just 81 balls on only his second Test appearance.

Brook registered an incredible strike rate of 124.69, with Crawley – Test career strike rate 54.47 – going along at 109.90, Pope at 103.94 and Duckett at 97.27 in a continuation of the eye-catching first summer with McCullum and Stokes at the helm.

Just don’t mention the dreaded ‘B’-word, though. ‘Bazball’ is a term England are not keen on, and former captain Nasser Hussain also felt their day-one approach contained plenty of traditional strokeplay rather than simply going on an all-out offensive.

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Nasser Hussain reflects on England piling on 506-4 in a day against Pakistan, centurions Harry Brook, Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope, and where the home side went wrong.

“Everyone is going on about ‘Bazball’ and isn’t it remarkable, but there hasn’t really been a shot played in anger or a hack or a slog,” Hussain told Sky Sports.

“What I’ve seen is they’ve been less proactive than in the summer where there was an obvious ‘Bazball’ resurgence going on. Here, they’ve just played normal cricket shots.

“Duckett normally plays the reverse sweep anyway, Root now plays the reverse sweep anyway, so they’ve upped the rate by just playing sensible, orthodox cricket, but in a very flamboyant way in this present era of playing.”

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