It was the day Harry Brook went from being England’s next great batsman to a current great one. There is no other word to describe him. Not after this.
This was a quite stunning unbeaten 184 on the first day of the second Test, full of classic shots, a little unorthodoxy and a lot of extraordinary power, that gave Brook a record at this fledgling stage of his career to stand comparison with the best ever to play the game.
Nobody in the rich history of Test cricket has scored more runs than this remarkable young Yorkshireman after just nine Test innings.
Not even the best of them all in Don Bradman who took two more visits to the crease than Brook to make his fourth century.
‘Bradmanesque’ was a term used liberally at the Basin Reserve today to describe Brook and why not? His average now stands at over a hundred and his strike-rate at an eye-watering 99.38. And all after the relative failure of his first Test appearance last summer.
Harry Brook (pictured) hits 184 to put England in control of the first day of the second Test
Brooks formed an unbroken partnership of 294 alongside fellow batsman Joe Root (pictured)
How apt it was, too, that watching from the other end in an unbroken partnership of 294 that knocked the stuffing out of New Zealand was arguably the best batter in England’s history in Joe Root. Even he could have been excused for not quite believing what he saw.
This was certainly the best of Brook’s four hundreds to date because it came with England facing real adversity in their quest to win their seventh successive Test and their 11th in 12 matches since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum came together last year.
Winning the toss and bowling first is a real advantage at this wonderful ground where New Zealand have not been beaten for 13 years and when Stokes called incorrectly and saw his side slip to 21 for three on a green pitch history looked set to repeat itself.
That was when the apprentice in Brook joined the master in Root for the highest fourth wicket stand for England against New Zealand on another day when they treated another big crowd to another compelling display of their pioneering brand of Test cricket.
Brook joined the master in Root for the highest fourth wicket stand for England against New Zealand
It was easy to overlook the contribution of Root, who made his first century in eight Tests and ended up unbeaten on 101 after going back to what he does best – accumulating runs at a more than decent rate – after questioning the best way he can fit into this all-action side.
But the day belonged to a man who, with a fair wind, will probably go on to usurp even Root, against both red ball and white, when his time comes in 10 years or so to be rated in the pantheon of the greats. Brook really is that good.
England were in trouble when Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett all fell within the first seven overs, Matt Henry returning to the New Zealand side to claim two of them and Tim Southee removing Duckett thanks to a sharp catch from Michael Bracewell.
It is now crunch time for Crawley. For all the faith England have placed in him and their insistence he can play match-winning innings he continues to under-achieve. Jonny Bairstow will be back this summer and unless he goes big in the second innings here it should be Crawley, and not the favourite in Ben Foakes, who makes way for him.
Brook, just turned 24, had the technique to cope with the moving ball on a sporting surface and then the ability to make sure England again put their foot to the accelerator and motored along to 315 for three off just 65 overs by the premature close.
In the process Brook played virtually every shot in the book, hitting Southee for a cover drive, cut and square drive for four in successive balls; smashing Daryl Mitchell straight and then over long on for successive sixes and reaching his hundred with a majestic late cut for four off Bracewell. There was even a scooped six off the hapless Mitchell.
Brook reached 50 off 51 balls, 100 off 107 deliveries, raced between 100 and 150 in 38 balls and ended up on 184 off 169 when New Zealand’s punishment came to an end for the day. He had simply bullied the Black Caps not quite into submission but not far off it.
Brook (pictured) reached 50 off 51 balls, 100 off 107 deliveries, and ended up on 184 off 169
Root was pedestrian by comparison but this is exactly how he should play in this side. His scoring was fast enough, reaching 50 off 122 balls and moving to a 29th century – the same number as that man Bradman – that clearly meant a lot to him off 182 just before rain brought a halt to the fun.
Root had punched the air when Brook reached his hundred even before the man himself – young Harry simply accepted the congratulations of his fellow Yorkshireman before taking off his helmet and raising both arms aloft – and now he greeted his own triumph in the manner of a man at ease with himself and truly excited at what has happened to this side since he gave up the captaincy.
It was quite a day for Yorkshire. Not only did a pair of batters made by the White Rose county dominate but the name of Herbert Sutcliffe was also raised when Brook went past his English record for most runs after nine Test innings. And to think Brook was raised in the village of Burley-in-Wharfedale, just 13 miles from where Sutcliffe lived in Cross Hills.
This modern Yorkshire pair creating their own history will be back for the second day with power to add many more and put this Test and the series out of New Zealand’s sight. And all in quite mind-boggling style.