A magnificent 184 not out from Harry Brook puts England in the ascendancy on day one of the second Test against New Zealand.
|England 315-3 (65 overs): Brook 184*, Root 101*; Henry 2-64|
|New Zealand: Yet to bat|
With Joe Root also making his first century in eight Tests, England piled on 315-3 before rain arrived in Wellington.
The tourists had been 21-3 after being asked to bat on a green pitch at the Basin Reserve – Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope all falling cheaply.
But Brook batted with all the style, certainty and confidence of a man who now has four hundreds in his first six Tests.
His 169-ball effort was laced with some sublime strokes and moved him to 807 Test runs in total, the most after nine innings for any player in history.
Root, who survived a review for lbw from his first ball and then again on 31, was the perfect foil. Batting at a more modest tempo, the former captain ended unbeaten on 101.
Between them, the Yorkshire pair have added an unbroken 294 for the fourth wicket and left England in the perfect position to push for their seventh-successive Test win and a series triumph that would be New Zealand’s first home defeat in six years.
Master and apprentice bully Black Caps
This had all the ingredients of an intriguing challenge for England’s ultra-aggressive batting line-up, and initially New Zealand looked set to exploit the emerald surface.
With the returning Matt Henry bowling a beautiful opening spell, Crawley was drawn into a nick and Pope played across one to give a thick edge.
Duckett poked a drive and was spectacularly caught one-handed by the diving Michael Bracewell at third slip off Tim Southee.
Brook, though, countered by hitting three fours in a single Southee over and England never looked back.
Whether batting conditions eased or England made them look easier, Brook and Root bullied a New Zealand attack that was a bowler light after the Black Caps chose to lengthen their batting by including Will Young.
While Brook played some breathtaking, almost unbelievable shots, the biggest cheer from the huge contingent of England fans inside a sold-out Basin Reserve was for Root’s hundred, completed in the rain just before the players left the field.
The bad weather gave respite to the New Zealand attack, ending play after only 65 of the scheduled 90 overs had been bowled. Day two will begin 30 minutes early at 21:30 GMT on Friday.
Brilliant Brook flirting with all-time greats
For as brilliant as Brook has been at the start of his Test career – this was his seventh score in excess of 50 – this was his best effort, not only for it being his highest score, but because of the conditions, match situation and his utter dominance of the home attack.
Though Brook has beaten the previous best after nine innings – 798 runs by India’s Vinod Kambli – he has a shot at an even more historic record: the fastest time to reach 1,000 runs is 12 innings, jointly held by England’s Herbert Sutcliffe and West Indian Everton Weekes, two all-time greats.
He moved up and down the gears. Nineteen from his first 11 balls, slowing to 63 from 81. At that point he hit successive sixes of Daryl Mitchell, whose fill-in medium pace was singled out for the harshest treatment.
Brook scored all around the wicket. When New Zealand were full, he played sumptuous drives. When Neil Wagner tried to bounce him, Brook cleared the front leg and thwacked the ball away, baseball-style.
He reached three figures from 107 balls, his slowest hundred in Test cricket, by cutting the off-spin of Bracewell. In doing so, he equalled Sutcliffe in reaching a fourth Test hundred in his ninth innings, an England record.
Brook then went from 100 to 150 in 38 balls and was flying towards what would have been England’s second-fastest Test double-century when the rain arrived, walking off with a Test average that had just gone into three figures at a strike rate of 99.
Root back in the groove
Root was on his longest run without a hundred in more than two years and admitted he was struggling to find the right tempo among England’s team of dashers.
He made a half-century in the second innings of the tourists’ win in the first Test, a knock he said gave him a “kick up the backside” and looked back to his best at the Basin Reserve.
Not bothering to keep up with Brook – an exercise that would have been futile – he played all of his trademark whips, clips and dabs.
Batting out of his crease to nullify the movement of the ball, Root pinched singles with excellent running. His first 50 runs contained only two boundaries.
As Root neared three figures, he pulled out a reverse-scoop, a shot that brought about his downfall in the first Test, but this time was executed perfectly to take four off Wagner.
With the rain falling, Root clipped Wagner off his toes to go to his 29th Test hundred. The stand with Brook is England’s second-highest ever in a Test against New Zealand, with the prospect of more to come on Saturday.
‘We make a good partnership’
England’s Harry Brook, speaking to BT Sport: “Both me and Joe were moving around quite a lot in the crease, just trying to put the bowlers off their lengths.
“There was a little bit in the pitch early on so we were just trying to negate that really.
“He’s unbelievable to bat with, I’ve played plenty of games with him now and I enjoy every game.
“I think we were a perfect partnership there. He obviously struggled a little bit at the start and couldn’t quite middle anything but then as he got into it later into his innings, he was the Joe Root everyone knows and loves.”