The day began frustratingly as the good old english weather threatened to put a halt to England’s pursuit for victory but fortunately (unfortunately for Pakistan) it was merely a passing shower.
After the brief interruption, Buttler breezed his way to his 2nd test match hundred and proved many doubters wrong (admittedly myself included). There was some drama when he was given out on 99 snicking behind to the wicketkeeper courtesy a nibbling delivery from the king of dibbly-dobbly bowlers himself (inherited the throne from the retired Vernon Philander), Mohammad Abbas.
My heart was in my mouth when the umpire lifted his finger but Jos Buttler calmly reviewed and the decision was thankfully overturned by the DRS technology and the country collectively sighed in relief.
Shortly afterwards, Zak Crawley got to his well deserved double hundred in equally nerve-racking style to Jos Buttler: Shaheen Shah Afridi angled the ball down the off-side at a tempting line and length and Crawley flashed his hands at it and took the edge.
Much to the relief of Crawley and the English supporters, the ball pierced the gap between 2nd slip and gully and went racing to the boundary fence. Crawley had managed to convert his first hundred into a double hundred!
The drama of test cricket is simply unmatched!
Released from the overbearing burden of scoring a double century, Crawley proceeded to get to 250 in basically no time and in the process hit two of the most extraordinary shots you will ever witness:
First he fluttered down the wicket to Yasir Shah with the poise of a ballerina and then chipped the ball over a diving Mohammad Abbas at long off for six with equally brutal elegance. The sheer timing of that shot was truly out of this world and a testament to Crawley’s talent and ability.
When one hit away from his 250, Crawley walked across his stumps to the metronomic Muhammad Abbas and then dismissively flicked the ball, with the nonchalance of Viv Richards in his pomp, into the boundary boards.
Ironically, Jos Buttler was actually rather circumspect during this ruthless demolition and watched mainly from the non striker’s end. However, he was still playing priceless role by ably supporting Crawley at the other end.
Finally Zak Crawley’s masterclass came to an abrupt end as he was stumped down the legside by Asad Shafiq. An innocuous end to an incredible innings of 267.
In came Chris Woakes, after many hours of waiting in pads for a chance to bat, and he struck some lusty blows despite some negative bowling tactics by the Pakistanis.
Jos Buttler fell shortly for a fine 152 as he had the unfortunate distinction of becoming Fawad Alam’s first ever test wicket when he tamely chipped the ball back to the bowler.
And then the pandemonium began as Stuart Broad, Dom Bess and Chris Woakes all threw the kitchen sink at it to reasonable effect as their slogs managed to take England to a colossal 583 for 8. Joe Root declared and England had 11 overs to have a go at the Pakistani top order.
To add to Pakistan’s woes, James Anderson was at his absolute best as his subtle mastery of the swinging dukes ball snared him 3 early wickets including the invaluable wicket of Babar Azam. That should silence his doubters!
Another positive for England was the much improved speed of Jofra Archer as he bowled with hostile pace and ruffled the Pakistani batsmen but with no reward. This will please the England fans reading this.
England now find themselves in an incredibly dominant position from which it would take a miracle for Pakistan to draw from let alone win.
In all, England have had the perfect day!