Is Harry Brook’s the best start to a Test career ever?
Harry Brook scored his fourth Test match century in the sixth Test of his career against New Zealand in Wellington, overnight he is 184 not out.
From 21-3 Brook, alongside Joe Root – also with an unbeaten hundred – rescued England to a more than healthy 315-3 at stumps. Brook will wake up tomorrow morning in New Zealand eyeing-up not only his first double-century in Test cricket but also the prospect of surpassing his dad’s highest score as well of 210.
He said: “My dad’s highest score is 210 and my highest score is 194 so that’s in the back of my mind at the minute.”
In assessing whether Brook’s start to his test career is the best ever, the numbers he has accumulated are striking.
He has more runs than anyone else in Test history from their first nine innings, having scored 807 since his debut against South Africa last summer. That’s ten more runs than Vinod Kambli, who made five in his ninth innings on 18th January 1994. However, Kambli did manage to score a double century quicker than Brook, he scored back-to-back double-hundreds in his fourth and fifth innings before a century in his sixth.
Where Brook has edged out Kambli is in his consistency. Staggeringly, he has passed fifty in all but two of his innings and his average has temporarily crept over 100 – more than Don Bradman at present, in case you were wondering.
In terms of the manner in which he scores his runs, Brook is also set apart from the rest, both from the past and present of the game. He epitomises ‘Bazball’ ethos, in a way that is only comparable to the man he replaced, Jonny Bairstow. It’s a mark of Brook’s ability and obvious talent that, when Bairstow is fit again, England will have to find someone else to make way for him in the side.
The stand-out from Brook’s career so far has been his strike rate, which currently sits at 99.38. He has demolished opposition bowling attacks, first in Pakistan and then New Zealand, his aggression towards Neil Wagner last night ensured the Black Caps’ ever-dependable enforcer became a liability. With Root at the other end, England’s second all-time leading Test run-scorer, Brook trumped him with every shot. His strike rate for his current innings was 108.87, Root’s was 55.49.
In fact, the dominance Brook has already established over Test match bowling attacks is highlighted by how he plays full deliveries. According to CricViz, since the start of 2022, batters in the top seven have a strike rate of 69 against full balls in Tests while Brook strikes at 143. That audacious lofted drive he plays down the ground, usually for six, must account for a high percentage of this rate.
If it’s not already clear just how good Brook is at this stage of his career, the scenario and conditions when he came to the crease last night offer another explanation. It was hardly the flatness of Rawalpindi in Wellington, and England were in trouble at 21-3. While the pitch did dry out after lunch, it felt like a significant moment for England’s new approach. The positive intent threatening to unravel, they could easily have been bundled out for a low score. While in that eventuality they would have brushed failure off, there would have been plenty of criticism from the quarters who are waiting patiently for them to fail.
Instead, Brook transformed it into another amazing day to be long remembered and added to a growing list in the early days of the Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum era.
Since his first Test in the summer, all of Brook’s innings have been overseas. He has been a vital part of turning England’s fortunes around away from home. Even on the flattest pitches like those they found in Pakistan, England struggled away from home less than 12 months ago and long before. The mindset change and confidence, encapsulated in Brook’s batting, has facilitated a way to win away.
Testament to his brilliance, cricket fans will be tuning in tonight at 10 o’clock tonight, not to watch Joe Root bat, but to marvel at the new star of the world game, Harry Brook.