Zak Crawley spoke of his ‘elation’ after scoring his first Test hundred to give England control of the series against Pakistan – and admitted he was thinking of three figures only 25 runs in to the most memorable day of his career.
The 22-year-old Crawley had spoken before the game about his dream of hitting a Test century. Now he finished the first day of the third Test unbeaten on 171, his highest first-class score, having added an unbroken 205 for the fifth wicket with Jos Buttler and taken England to an imposing 332 for four.
‘I was trying to keep the hundred out of my head, to be honest,’ he said. ‘When I was on about 25, I felt in decent touch, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Luckily when I got to about 70 I calmed down a bit. That whole period in the middle there, it just seemed really ‘on’.
‘It feels great – just as I imagined it. It’s an unbelievable feeling of elation. It makes you want it more. Hopefully there are a few more to come after this.’
Crawley, whose previous best first-class score was 168 against Glamorgan, found himself on 99 in the first over after tea, but nervelessly worked Mohammad Abbas through the covers, before celebrating with a chaste kiss of the Three Lions emblem on his helmet.
‘To find the gap and to run two and come back knowing I had my first Test hundred, it was all a bit of a blur,’ he said. ‘I could see the lads up on the balcony. I was trying to stay calm but inside I was absolutely buzzing.’
And he admitted his career flashed before his eyes at the moment of triumph.
‘I could kind of see all the nets I’d done in the past and all the times I had gone on my own to hit some balls. You do question yourself when you’re in a run of low scores and you can’t buy a run. You wonder whether it was worth it, or whether you’re better off doing something else. But it all seemed worth it.
‘I felt like I had a lot to prove, and I still do. But it was nice to get that monkey off your back, and I definitely feel more comfortable in myself having scored a hundred.’
Up in the Sky commentary box, his former Kent team-mate and occasional mentor Rob Key was blown away by Crawley’s performance. ‘I knew he could play well, but that was a completely different level,’ he said.
Another 50 runs today, and Crawley will equal Key’s Test-best 221 against West Indies at Lord’s in 2004. He already has the highest Test score by an England No 3 since Joe Root’s 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford four years ago.
Meanwhile, Pakistan assistant coach Mushtaq Ahmed lamented his bowlers’ inability to execute specific plans against Crawley.
‘We did give them enough info about Zak Crawley, and we showed them his technique,’ he said. ‘His front leg doesn’t come across, so we wanted Shaheen Shah Afridi to bring the ball into him for lbw or bowled. But the pitch was flat and give him credit – he played a brilliant innings.’