New Zealand v England: Joe Root & Harry Brook in master-and-apprentice stand

Harry Brook was standing in the sunshine on the Bay Oval outfield after England’s first-Test win over New Zealand.

For the third consecutive Test he had been named player of the match. He usually sends prizes and trophies to his grandma Pauline, who often has Harry’s cricket kit drying on the washing line in her garden that overlooks Burley-in-Wharfedale Cricket Club.

On this particular occasion, the bottle of champagne in Brook’s hand was never intended for his grandma.

“I might have a glass of this myself tonight,” he said. “I’ll have to make sure she doesn’t know about it.”

Pauline was present for one of Brook’s first encounters with Joe Root, in the nets when Brook was still a teenager.

“I was about 14,” said Brook. “My grandma was sat in the car watching. I bowled little gentle inswingers and I sneaked one through him.”

Root tells it slightly differently.

“He was bowling filthy seamers off the wrong foot,” said Root. “He got me out in the nets and he just continually talks about it. It’s so annoying.”

It was Root who was at the other end when a 19-year-old Brook made his maiden first-class century for Yorkshire against Essex in 2018.

On Friday at the Basin Reserve, a ground with history when it comes to forming cricketing duos – James Anderson and Stuart Broad were united in Test cricket for the first time here 15 years ago – Root and Brook shared a master-and-apprentice stand that hints at a prolific future for England’s middle-order.

When they came together on the first morning of the second Test in Wellington, England were 21-3 and rocking. The pitch greener than Greta Thunberg’s recycling bin, Matt Henry bowling beauties threatening the edges of English bats.

What followed was an astonishing, rollicking, probably match-winning partnership of 294 runs in just 58.2 overs. Only the rain stopped New Zealand chasing more leather, with Brook unbeaten on 184 and Root 101 not out.

They had come to this Test in very different ways, with varying degrees of happiness in their batting.

Brook is the epitome of the new England under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. Three hundreds in his first five Tests, all of them quicker than a hiccup. A batter on the way to multi-format superstardom with a whopping Indian Premier League deal in his back pocket.

Root had been honest enough to admit he struggled to find the right tempo of his batting in England’s new era.

Seven Tests without a hundred is hardly career-ending form, but for a player the calibre of Root, it is a long time between drinks.

In this rescue act/counter-attack/evisceration of the New Zealand bowling, Brook and Root showed how they can operate perfectly in tandem, while playing in their own style.

Root was the drummer, keeping the beat tapping and the score ticking. A glide here, a clip there, a dab into a gap.

Brook wields the bat like a lead guitarist screeching out a killer riff. He is a one-man highlight reel capable of playing shots that take the breath away.

There is a need for both of them in the band.

Root’s place in history, probably as England’s most prolific runscorer and century-maker, is already assured.

Maybe he will be challenged by Brook, who is breathing rarefied air with some of the very greatest to have ever picked up a bat.

His 807 runs, a tally he has the chance to add to on Saturday, is the most anyone has ever amassed in the first nine innings of a Test career.

No England batter has ever reached four Test hundreds quicker than Brook’s nine innings. Root, for the record, needed 34 four innings to make his first four centuries.

Whereas Brook is usually bothering Gilbert Jessop’s 121-year-old record for England’s fastest Test ton, made from 76 balls, he is now knocking on the door of Herbert Sutcliffe and Everton Weekes.

England’s Sutcliffe and West Indian Weekes both reached 1,000 Test runs in 12 innings, the fastest of all time. Sutcliffe did it in 1925, Weekes in 1949. Brook, 193 short of that landmark, has the rest of this innings and two more to beat them, or three more to match.

He sleeps tonight with an average of 100.88, better than the greatest of them all, Donald Bradman. Even if he is out to the first ball he faces on Saturday, it will only fall to 89.67, comfortably the second-highest of any player with more than a Test innings or two.

“I’m sure it’ll come down very quickly,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and live in what’s happening at the minute.

“These are good times but just around the corner there might be bad times so you’ve got to enjoy these moments and cash in as much as I can.”

They are words that reveal plenty about Brook’s down-to-earth character. The IPL bidding war won by Sunrisers Hyderabad might have made him a millionaire, but those who know him say there is not a flash bone in his body.

He is one if the hardest practisers in the England team, often name-checked by captain Stokes – “hearing Harry Brook saying he wants to work on a few things in his game is great,” were Stokes’ words the day before this Test.

Brook celebrated his 24th birthday on Wednesday with a round of golf. He has missed England’s two ‘team-bonding’ exercises this winter, the first in Abu Dhabi before the tour of Pakistan in order to move into his new house, the second in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island because he was making his one-day international debut in South Africa.

This has been a winter when he has pocketed a T20 World Cup winners’ medal and ripped up the records in Test cricket, none of which might have happened had Jonny Bairstow not slipped on the golf course and broken his leg.

When Bairstow returns, England have a batting jigsaw to complete in order to accommodate him. If Zak Crawley survives at the top of the order, does that mean Ben Foakes makes way and Bairstow keeps wicket?

If Crawley is moved on, who opens? Bairstow, a regular white-ball opener? Gloveman Foakes has the temperament for the top of the order. If you were picking purely on technique, maybe even Stokes is the best man for the job.

Brook himself began as an opener, but for now he has eyes on another prize – family bragging rights.

His highest score at any level of cricket is 194. His father David once made 210 for Burley against Woodhouse in the Airedale & Wharfedale League.

“I’m sure he’ll be messaging me tonight,” said Brook. “I have to face the first ball tomorrow, get through that. That score will be in the back of my mind.”

As for grandma Pauline, plenty more awards – probably including bottles of champagne – are coming her way.

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