Pakistan vs England, 1st Test, Rawalpindi


After scoring 506 for four on the opening day of the first Test in Rawalpindi, Ben Stokes had one last word for his charges ahead of day two. “We’ve broken some records yesterday, let’s try and break some more today.” Harry Brook took those words to heart.
In a remarkable morning session that saw England add 151 more runs to finish their first innings on 657, Brook smashed 54 from 35 balls to finish on 153 from 116 in only his second Test innings. With that came the accomplishment of scoring 150 faster than any other Englishman, smashing (by 20 balls) the mark of 135 that Stokes set in a similar onslaught against South Africa in Cape Town seven years ago. He is the fourth quickest to 150 overall, with Brook’s head coach Brendon McCullum still out in front with a 103-ball effort against Sri Lanka in 2014.
As it happens, it was on the way past his captain that Brook broke a record of his own, one that had not even stood for 24 hours. After clubbing six fours in a row off Saud Shakeel to become the first Englishman to achieve the feat in a single Test over, he went three better on Friday with 27 off legspinner Zahid Mahmood. This one featured four fours and a six, clubbed effortlessly down the ground, and it could have been as high as 30, had he got hold of the final delivery, instead of top-edging a swipe for three down to fine leg.

“With the amount of runs we had on the board, we had the freedom to go out and play however we wanted,” Brook explained, wide-eyed like a kid told he’d be left home alone with a stocked drinks cabinet. “I wouldn’t say I was being reckless until I got out, but no, I took the positive option and played my shots.”

It hasn’t been a bad few weeks for Brook, who became a world champion with England in the T20 World Cup before enjoying a fortnight at home to move into a new house, before heading out here. And just as he has shown across formats, there was no discernible change in how he went into both days, beyond a projected liberation that his maiden Test century was now under his belt, by the time he walked back to the middle on Friday morning, resuming on 101 not out.

As ever with Brook, it was a no-nonsense approach, rooted in sensibility. When discussing his 27-run over, he was as matter-of-fact as you would expect a Yorkshireman to be, especially when comparing it to Thursday’s 24.

“That first set he bowled six bad balls and I just put them away, the second set obviously he came round the wicket, I felt like reverse was quite a free option, so I took it on first ball and then had to change, and then it got later in the over and I was getting closer to the record, so my eyes lit up then.”

What was noticeable was how the crowd seemed to vibe most with Brook. That he is engaging to watch is one thing, but there was a sense this local Pindi crowd were enamoured by someone they might, in some way, consider one of their own. He enjoyed a fruitful spell with Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League – 264 runs at 52.80, including a top score of 102 not out – and wowed all watchers during England’s T20 series in the country a couple of months ago.

“Obviously I’ve had quite a bit of experience [in Pakistan] but I’ve never played here before – so to come here and the pitch is quite similar to the other grounds is quite nice.

“I feel like it’s true, so you can play it as it comes down really, if it’s there to drive, drive and if it’s there to cut, cut it.”

As for how he expects England to find 20 wickets from this surface, he remained tight-lipped.

“I can’t tell you that, we’ve got three days to play yet!” he joked when pressed on any tactics. “We went through a few plans there, probably stick to bowling straight. It’s going to start getting lower I think, and it’s going to start going underground.

“If we start there hopefully we can get a few lb[w]s which keep low and obviously we tried the bouncers. It’s just about striking at the right time and going bang, bang really.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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