Harry Brook smashes 97 as England pile on runs in New Zealand warm-up clash
Harry Brook helped England put on a show for New Zealand captain Tim Southee on the first of two warm-up days in Hamilton, smashing 97 as the runs flowed at Seddon Park.
Black Caps skipper Southee arrived for a scouting mission ahead of next week’s first Test and saw the tourists rack up 465 all out in just 69.2 overs against a local XI, scoring at a formidable rate of more than one-a-ball.
Southee and England’s Kiwi head coach Brendon McCullum were team-mates for years and the pair happily removed any battle lines as they chatted at length throughout the second session, joined by Ben Stokes, who decided to restrict himself to a watching brief.
There is no injury concern over Stokes, who preferred a long net session alongside Durham colleague Matthew Potts before play, and his voluntary absence was instead another reminder of England’s relaxed approach to accepted norms.
Brook ensured Stokes’ omission barely registered, bullying the NZ XI with nine sixes and seven fours in a 71-ball knock which reprised the golden run of form that brought him a hat-trick of centuries in Pakistan before Christmas and a GBP 1.3million Indian Premier League deal.
Five sixes came from successive deliveries by rookie leg-spinner Adi Ashok, including a dismissive leg-side thrash that cleared not only the boundary rope but the perimeter fence as well. The pink Kookaburra was last seen bouncing away down the main road, as Brook’s sweet striking began to light up the day’s play.
Ashok was spared the indignity of going for a full house of six sixes in the over thanks a defensive block off the first delivery, but once he found his range Brook was irrepressible. Whether using his feet to clear the sight screen or standing back and swinging over mid-wicket, the middle of his bat seemed impossibly broad.
Brook also showed his class against a proven international performer, taking on the returning Kyle Jamieson. The 6ft 8in seamer, completing a lengthy recovery from a stress fracture and eyeing a role in the first Test at Mount Maunganui next Thursday, bowled nicely throughout the day and accounted for Ben Duckett (32), Dan Lawrence (85) and Will Jacks (18).
But Brook emerged unscathed from his tussle with the seamer, at one stage lacing him for six with a fierce, flat pull that crashed into the grass bank.
He looked to be romping towards three figures but departed in fitting fashion, stepping back in an attempt to uppercut Jarrod McKay for another maximum but picking out the man at deep third.
England’s top three all got started but failed to kick on. Duckett (32) and Pope (24) looking lively but Zak Crawley slightly stiffer for his 17.
Joe Root dialled things up a notch, easing to the first half-century of the trip in 45 balls and showing off the reverse ramped six that he first unveiled against Southee last summer. England posted 169 for three at lunch, before moving up another gear in the second session.
With Brook to the fore they piled on 206 in just 26 overs, closing in on eight-an-over. Root was caught behind on the sweep for 77 and Brook departed three short of his ton but Lawrence picked up where they left off.
With the bowling and fielding slipping to modest levels, he raced to a 37-ball fifty but is still set to act as cover during the series proper when Stokes reclaims his spot at number six.
There was time for Ben Foakes to add 57 and get some time at the crease under the lights, but when England lost their 10th wicket with another 20 overs still scheduled they called an early end to proceedings rather than unleash their bowlers in the twilight.
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