Going into the third Test holding a 1-0 lead after rain ruined the previous encounter in Southampton, the home side were teetering when 127-4 midway through Friday’s play.
However, Pakistan were unable to get another breakthrough in the remainder of proceedings, Crawley finishing up unbeaten on 171 as England progressed to 332-4 by the close.
The 22-year-old, who has made just three hundreds for Kent in his first-class career, shared an unbroken stand worth 205 with Jos Buttler, who will resume on the second morning on 87 not out.
The stunning fifth-wicket alliance completely changed the complexion of proceedings, as well as vindicating the decison by captain Joe Root to bat first.
— ICC (@ICC) August 21, 2020
Crawley had arrived at the crease midway through the fifth over after Rory Burns fell cheaply again, the left-handed opener edging Shaheen Afridi through to Shan Masood in the slips when on six.
Dom Sibley (22) helped add 61 for the second wicket but also departed before lunch, given out lbw to leg-spinner Yasir Shah following a successful review by Pakistan.
Naseem Shah produced a sublime delivery to end a promising start for Root (29), while Ollie Pope’s decision to play back to Yasir resulted in his downfall, bowled for three to leave the hosts in a spot of bother.
But, as was the case in the first Test in Manchester when his 75 helped England recover from 127-5 to reach a victory target of 277, Buttler emphatically tipped the balance in his side’s favour.
The wicketkeeper-batsman will hope to reach three figures for a second time in the format on Saturday, while batting partner Crawley has a double ton in his sights.
Having been stuck at tea on 97, he made it to three figures with a drive on the up through the covers and, impressively, continued to pile on the runs after reaching the landmark, Pakistan becoming increasingly ragged as not even a second new ball helped them find a late breakthrough.
Published 21 Aug 2020, 23:40 IST