The fate of this summer’s Ashes series is in the balance, with England players set to meet this week with the England Cricket Board (ECB) and the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA).
Zak Crawley has enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a near faultless first Test century to lead England to a commanding 4-332 at stumps on Day 1 of their third and final Test against Pakistan in Southampton.
Crawley, 22, had only scored three first-class hundreds prior to the Test but was in imperious form as he ended the day on a career-best 171 not out.
He put on an unbeaten 205 for the fifth wicket with Jos Buttler (87 not out) to get England out of some early trouble.
The pair came together with the home side teetering on 4-127 but provided a classy counter-punch with some aggressive batting in blustery conditions that made it a hard slog for Pakistan’s seam attack.
Crawley made his Test debut against New Zealand in December and having scored three half-centuries in 11 previous innings, including 53 in the previous Test against Pakistan, finally entered the three-figure club.
“Best feeling I’ve had on a cricket field by quite a long way,” he said after being applauded off the middle by Pakistan’s players then by England’s players and officials on the balcony.
“To see everyone else up there on the balcony clapping, it kind of flashed before my eyes, almost my whole career, actually, so far. It was a great moment and hopefully I can get a few more.”
After losing the toss and being asked to bowl, Pakistan had early success when struggling opener Rory Burns (6) was caught at third slip by Shan Masood off the bowling of seamer Shaheen Afridi.
Dom Sibley (22) was trapped leg before wicket by wily leg-spinner Yasir Shah (2-107), who also accounted for Ollie Pope (3) with a quicker delivery that pinned the middle-order batsman on the back foot and clattered into his stumps.
Joe Root (29) looked well set before receiving a superb delivery from 17-year-old seamer Naseem Shah that caught his outside edge as it jagged away and provided a catch for wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Pakistan need to win the Test to level the series after England claimed the first match in Manchester by three wickets and the rain-hit second fixture ended in a draw.