Rawalpindi: Virus-hit England stamped its aggressive brand of Test cricket on its first Test in Pakistan in 17 years by amassing a world record 506-4 with four batters smashing hundreds on Thursday.
Zak Crawley hit 122 and Ben Duckett made 107 in a blistering opening stand of 233. Ollie Pope and Harry Brook blazed hundreds in the last session in an astonishing display of power-hitting against an inexperienced Pakistan bowling attack.
And the Test almost didn't start.
England confirmed it had a fit 11 and the match could go ahead only two hours before the toss. Then it destroyed a host of records in only 75 overs before play ended prematurely because of bad light.
The 506-4 total was the highest on the first day of any test, surpassing Australia’s 494-6 in 1910 against South Africa in Sydney. England also became the fastest team to score 500 runs.
Pope, who will keep wickets after Ben Foakes couldn’t recover from a viral infection that hit the England camp, cemented coach Brendon McCullum’s aggressive approach by making 108.
Brook struck six fours in one over by debutant Saud Shakeel in the final session to reach 101 not out.
Captain Ben Stokes, who won the toss and elected to bat after recovering in time from the virus, was not out on 34 off 15 balls.
England batters smashed 73 boundaries and three sixes in a white-ball fireworks display with the red ball.
In the absence of injured spearhead Shaheen Afridi, Pakistan opted to hand debuts to three bowlers; fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Mohammad Ali and legspinner Mohammad Zahid.
But none of the bowlers could extract any help from a slow, grassless pitch at Pindi Cricket Stadium.
Surprisingly, Joe Root was the only batter to miss out when he fell to Mahmood, who finished the day with 2-168. Rauf (1-78) and Ali (1-96) shared the other wickets.
Crawley and Duckett combined in a better-than-run-a-ball 233 stand before Pakistan picked up three wickets in the middle session when Mahmood and Rauf struck in successive overs with the old ball.
Mahmood broke the stand when Duckett went for a reverse sweep against the legspinner and Pakistan successfully went for a TV referral against on-field umpire Joe Wilson’s not out decision.
Rauf then swung in late and clattered Crawley’s stumps in the next over. But England’s intent to score at pace didn’t subside after the dismissal of the two century-makers.
Joe Root was out lbw for 23 when he was struck on the back leg while attempting a sweep.
Crawley was on 99 when Naseem Shah trapped him on the backfoot, but Crawley successfully overturned the decision as video suggested the ball would have missed the leg stump.
Two balls later, Crawley achieved the fastest test century by an England opener off 86 balls with a cover-driven boundary, and Duckett reached his maiden hundred by pulling Rauf to the legside for four.
Crawley and Duckett stormed England to 174-0 in the first session.
Crawley missed an opportunity to become the first Englishman to smash a century before lunch in a test match when he reached 91, while Duckett dominated Mahmood’s spin to make 77.
Crawley was ruthless against Rauf’s short-pitched deliveries and the gentle medium pace of Ali, too, to raise his half-century off only 38 balls with 11 fours. He hit another six boundaries in the session.
Duckett dominated the legspin of Mahmood with his trademark sweep shots and didn’t hesitate to attack the spinner early with a reverse-swept boundary. He completed his maiden test half-century off 50 balls.
The start of the test was confirmed at only 7:30 a.m. local time after the Pakistan Cricket Board said England “informed (them) they are in a position to field an XI, and, as such, the first test will commence as per schedule today.”
England had to make a change in its playing XI at the last minute. Foakes was replaced by Will Jacks, who will make his test debut, and Pope will keep. Liam Livingstone will also debut.