Jack Leach: Harry Brook could not stop smiling after claiming key wicket
Jack Leach revealed Harry Brook “couldn’t stop smiling” after he unexpectedly kick-started England’s victory push in New Zealand with the prize scalp of Kane Williamson.
England were visibly wilting on the fourth evening of their series-deciding second Test against the Black Caps, who responded to the challenge of following on by reaching a concerning 455 for five in Wellington.
With bodies aching after an epic spell in the field and Ben Stokes’ knee issues meaning England were effectively a bowler down, Brook received the call to try out his very occasional medium-pacers.
Seeing the rising batting star turn his arm over was not even ‘plan B’ for England, who had already sent down 200 overs between both New Zealand innings, but the 24-year-old Yorkshireman made a remarkable impact.
Bowling at a gentle speed of just over 65mph he dragged one down the leg side, feathering Williamson’s bat on the way through to the alert Ben Foakes and ending an immaculate innings of 132 and a crucial stand of 158 with Tom Blundell.
That was the first of five wickets to tumble for just 28 runs as New Zealand set England a target of 258 – a chase they will resume on the final morning at 48 for one.
“He’s really happy and we’re all very happy for him, he just couldn’t stop smiling,” said Leach, who toiled away for 61.3 overs for a five-wicket haul.
“He said he did Kane with the bouncer first, so he wasn’t quite forward to it. He reckons it was all on purpose. We just wanted to try something different. At times in cricket you think ‘let’s do something they might not be expecting’. That’s what we gave them and it worked.”
Joe Root said after the first Test in Mount Maunganui that Brook had bowled him out in the Headingley nets as a 14-year-old, bowling “filthy seamers off the wrong foot” and had not let him forget it.
Asked if he had been lobbying for a chance behind the scenes, Leach added: “I don’t think so, no. But he will be now.”
Williamson, who started the day by overtaking former team-mate Ross Taylor as New Zealand’s record run-scorer in Test cricket, admitted he was not even sure what Brook bowled when he came on.
“No, I didn’t. It’s one of those things…that’s cricket,” he said.
“It’s frustrating obviously, but he didn’t miss his length – he was immaculate. I was just trying to focus and respect it – you don’t want to get lazy. He was on point and that was maybe the worst ball he bowled.
“He’s had a fantastic career to date, mainly with the bat, but he’s a special player.”
Leach gave an insight into the England dressing room at the tea break, when the prospects of becoming just the fourth team in history to lose after enforcing the follow-on were at their highest.
“Stokesy just said ‘give everything you have got’, but he put it a lot better than that,” the spinner said.
“Sometimes you have to keep going, give that bit more and enjoy the graft rather than worry about things not happening. That was the message – enjoy being out there, you are playing for England and trying to win a Test match.”
Both teams reached stumps believing there was a game to be won.
“We’re very confident we can chase it down. We know how we want to go about our chases. It is a case of us sticking to our process and trusting that will work.”
Williamson added: “It’s all to play for and it’s always exciting when all three results are on the table. We have the ball in hand now and an opportunity in front of us.”
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