Harry Brook continued his remarkable start to life as a Test cricketer, making his fourth century of the winter to take command of England’s series decider against New Zealand.
Brook dominated an unbroken stand of 216 with Joe Root in Wellington, reaching 136 not out at the tea break as the Yorkshire duo carried their side to 237 for three.
England had been put in to bat on a green pitch at Basin Reserve and were under pressure at 21 for three when Brook arrived at the crease.
But he took control of the situation with a superb innings, stealing the momentum from the Black Caps as he roared to three figures in just 107 deliveries.
With Root (72no) happily accepting the supporting role, England reached tea in charge of proceedings following a wicketless afternoon session. The excitement around Brook is building almost every time he takes to the crease and in making his fourth hundred in only his sixth Test he matched the achievement or Sir Donald Bradman – the Australian great who remains the sport’s gold standard.
Root spoke in glowing terms about his fellow Yorkshireman after his player-of-the-match display in Mount Maunganui last week and had a front row seat to his latest classy innings, digging in and playing a careful knock of his own while his younger partner went about bullying the home attack.
By the break, Brook had 18 fours and three sixes, hammered to all parts as he scored at better than a run-a-ball.
New Zealand had enjoyed a near perfect start to proceedings, with Tim Southee winning the toss and eagerly inserting the opposition on a grassy surface that Ben Stokes admitted had the English seamers “licking their lips”.
It took little more than half-an-hour for the Kiwis to take England’s top order out of the equation, Matt Henry marking his return with a double new-ball strike and Michael Bracewell chipping in a stunning catch at slip to remove Ben Duckett.
First to fall was Zak Crawley, nicking Henry behind with just two to his name, his latest unconvincing response to question marks over his place in the side. He has now been dismissed in single figures four times in his last six visits and has seen his Test average dip below 28 in the process.
Henry picked up another when his attacking off stump line proved too good for Ollie Pope, who sent a thick edge flying to Bracewell in the cordon. It was a sharp chance, safely taken, but paled in comparison to his next grab off Southee – throwing himself back and across to pluck the ball out of the air one-handed.
England were rocking now, but in Root and Brook they found a partnership to rebuild around. Brook played the role of aggressor, unloading three boundaries in a row off Southee to state his intentions and shrug off the scoreboard pressure. Medium-pacer Daryl Mitchell also found it impossible to contain his muscular blows down the ground, conceding two big sixes in consecutive balls, while Neil Wagner’s short-pitched tactics merely allowed him to showcase his powerful pull shot.
Root survived a DRS referral for lbw off his first delivery but settled well into a controlled knock, flying under the radar as he worked his way past fifty just one ball before Brook’s hundred.
The afternoon belonged to the England pair, with Brook shuffling across his crease to disrupt the New Zealand bowlers and opening up scoring zones that Southee had not even thought to plug. After a spell on 99 he got over the line with a punch to the extra cover ropes, with Root clapping him on from the non-striker’s end.