Zak Crawley got smacked flush in the head, but took another step forward to cementing his place as an England Test cricketer.

Crawley was sconned by a 93 mile per hour bouncer from Anrich Nortje after making his maiden Test 50 but it didn't stop him from putting on England's biggest opening stand in the first innings of a Test match for 11 years.

Not since Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook were in control at the top of the order have England had such solid foundations as Crawley provided with Dom Sibley at the Wanderers.

Their stand of 107 was broken just after the tea break before England closed the day 192-4 with the first session entirely washed out by rain.

Crawley and Dom Sibley put on an opening stand of 107

Crawley wouldn't have played in this series at all if it wasn't for the ankle injury sustained by Rory Burns before the 2nd Test in Cape Town, but he is starting to make a compelling case to be kept on in Sri Lanka and beyond.

The 21-year-old has also developed the pleasant knack of making his highest score in each subsequent innings even if he hoped that his 66 here had ended up being much higher.

By the time he edged Vernon Philander to Rassie van der Dussen at slip Crawley had already shown both the skill and the positive intent to suggest that his highest score will soon have three rather than two numbers.

“I’d have loved a hundred,” he said. “But when you’re in the 60s playing for England it’s very hard not to think about that, so I’ll have to work on pushing those things out of my mind the next time.

Crawley is making a good case to be kept on in Sri Lanka

“I’ve definitely got a lot more confidence in myself. I wouldn’t quite say settled yet. I’ve a lot more to prove.

“But I feel if keep improving, and I feel like I’m improving quite a lot each game, I don’t think it will be too long before I feel much more comfortable.”

He wasn't very comfortable after Nortje hit him though with a concussion test required as well as two new helmets until he found one that could fit his head.

It was Sibley's he used for the rest of his innings thanks to his fellow opener's larger skull and the fact that he was the first man to go, flicking Beuran Hendricks down the leg side to Quinton de Kock for 44.

Ollie Pope and Joe Root were at the crease when England finished the day 192-4

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Joe Denly made a fast-paced but tortured 27, getting dropped twice at point and mid-wicket before eventually edging to slip off Dane Paterson.

Ben Stokes was the fourth to fall for just two, playing an uncharacteristically loose drive early on in his innings giving van der Dussen his third catch at slip.

Thanks to Joe Root and Ollie Pope there were no further mishaps and England already look to be in a decent position, and when the skipper nudged the ball into the covers for a single to take his side to 186-4 he also brought up their 500,000th Test run of all time.