15 internationals outdone by a teen – the 2018 County Championship hundred where Harry Brook announced himself
In early May of the 2018 County Championship season, Essex and Yorkshire played out a titanic clash at Chelmsford. And amid a galaxy of stars, it was an uncapped 19-year-old, Harry Brook who shone the brightest.
You could count on one hand the number of players who were not current internationals, future internationals, or at least future England Lions. The calibre of the sides was staggering – half of the 22 who played had represented or would go on to represent the senior England side while four others had played international cricket for another nation.
Amongst some of the best batters in the world including Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Alastair Cook, and Cheteshwar Pujara, only one scored a hundred – in fact, only one made more than 50.
This was a 124 from 19-year-old Brook, giving a glimpse of what was to come on his way to a maiden first-class century.
Apart from the foreshadowing of one of England’s best batting prospects ever, it was also a truly remarkable comeback from Yorkshire, who recovered from 50 all out on the first morning to win by 91 runs.
This was the fifth-lowest score in a first innings by a winning team in County Championship history.
It was a remarkable recovery from what Yorkshire’s Steven Patterson described as “probably the worst session of cricket I’ve ever been involved in”. Sam Cook claimed 5-28 and Peter Siddle 4-7 as Yorkshire were routed for 50 inside 20 overs.
In reply, Essex mustered a more respectable 142 thanks largely to another future international Dan Lawrence who made 48. A lead of 92 was surmountable, but also nearly twice as many as Yorkshire’s first-innings score. By stumps, they were in the lead, on their way to a match-winning advantage.
Bairstow kicked off the revival, playing an innings befitting of Bazball after being promoted to open in Yorkshire’s second innings. He smashed a 44-ball 50 before being bowled by Siddle, the first wicket to fall.
Fresh off a duck in the first innings, Brook hit his first ball for four, the start of a game-changing innings and was undoubtedly the difference between the star-studded sides. The next highest score in the game was Bairstow’s blistering 50.
The Essex bowling attack – boasting Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer as well as Cook and Siddle – was no match for the future world beater, even in favourable bowling conditions. Brook went to stumps on 57, and finished on 124.
Even then Brook had a personable honesty in his interview answers: “It’s my first score over 50, so I’m quite happy, although I just wish I’d got a few more. I got out playing a shocking shot.” He fell to Harmer, the only wicket to fall to spin in the entire game.
Despite being overshadowed by Brook’s mastery of the conditions, Pujara and Root showed their class with 41 and 35 respectively to take Yorkshire to 329. It was Root who partnered Brook as he brought up his century.
“It was good batting with Joe Root,” recalled Brook. “I learnt a lot and we put on a few runs. When I got my hundred he just said, ‘Well done, carry on.’ Hundreds are good but just hundreds aren’t good enough.” Having extended his maiden Test ton to a daddy 153, it seems advice well-heeded.
Set 238 to win, Steven Patterson claimed 6-40 to bundle Essex out for 146 and seal an extraordinary game. It would take Brook time to fully realise his potential, but this was an early glimpse of one of the most exciting talents in the world game.