Harry Brook might have been celebrating another half-century for Bradford and Bingley.
Shortly before tea on the second day of this third and final Test, he forced Pakistan spinner Abrar Ahmed to the cover fence, carefully took off his helmet, raised both arms and accepted Ben Foakes’s offer of a hug. It was as unshowy as his batting had been unforgettable.
This was his third century in his first full series as a Test cricketer, and probably his best – carved from the adversity of an England score of 145 for five after Brook had been complicit in the run-out of Ben Stokes.
Harry Brook hit his third century in as many games as England secured a lead versus Pakistan
The 23-year-old hit 111 before being trapped LBW by debutant seamer Mohammad Wasim
Other 23-year-olds in only their fourth Test might have shrivelled. But they clearly breed them tough in Keighley, and Brook set about repairing the damage. By the time he was trapped by debutant seamer Mohammad Wasim for 111, he and Ben Foakes had put on a game-changing 117.
The lower order followed suit. Mark Wood crashed 35 off 41 balls, and Ollie Robinson 29 off 20. With Foakes falling in between for 64, a skilful knock made at the steady tempo he prefers, England reached 354 – a useful first-innings lead of 50.
By stumps, Pakistan were 21 without loss from nine overs of spin, and trailed by 29. England’s hopes of an unprecedented whitewash remained alive, though plenty of hard work lay ahead.
He embraced with wicketkeeper Ben Foakes – who he put on 117 with – upon reaching his ton
Mark Wood crashed 35 off 41 balls batting at number nine as England’s tail impressed with bat
But, in the City of Lights, it was the performance of Brook that illuminated the show. Yorkshire batsmanship has run through England’s Test history like a reassuring constant – from Herbert Sutcliffe to Len Hutton, and from Geoff Boycott to Joe Root.
You announce a new member of this lineage at your peril, but Brook has made such a good start to his Test career – and appears to have such a mature head on young shoulders – that it will be a surprise if he doesn’t progress on an upward trajectory.
His hundreds at Rawalpindi and Multan told us what we already knew from his exploits in white-ball cricket – not least during the T20 series here in the autumn, when he averaged 79 with a strike-rate of 163. It was why, earlier in this trip, England’s assistant coach Paul Collingwood called him a ‘powerful Joe Root’.
The Yorkshireman was branded ‘a powerful Joe Root’ by England assistant Paul Collingwood
But the situation on the second afternoon in Karachi called for something extra. Resuming on seven for one, England reached 58 without further loss, only for left-arm spinner Nauman Ahmed to trap Ben Duckett lbw on the back foot for 26, then have Root caught at slip first ball, pushing at one that turned away and took the edge.
When Ollie Pope was bowled for 51 by an unplayable delivery from Abrar that pitched on leg stump and hit off as he groped at thin air, England were 98 for four and in more than a spot of bother.
He and Stokes restored some order by lunch, taken at 140 for four, only to undo the good work from the 11th ball of the afternoon session.
Brook had clipped Wasim off his legs and, perhaps thinking the ball was running away for four, took a leisurely second. Stokes, though, rightly spotted the chance for a third, but Brook wasn’t interested.
Brook ran out captain Ben Stokes (left), who was frustrated but gave him a thumbs up
Brook and Foakes helped England rebuild from 145-5 to earn a lead of 50 runs in Karachi
When Azhar Ali hurled the ball to Wasim, standing over the stumps, at the non-striker’s end, both Stokes and Brook were stranded at the other. Crucially, Brook had touched his bat down behind the line a fraction before Stokes crossed it, so it was the captain – having played forcefully for 26 – who was on his way.
Perhaps just as crucially, Stokes turned round as he walked off, giving Brook the thumbs-up – the act of a captain who understands the power of gestures.
For a while, Brook and Foakes proceeded with caution, but Brook was merciless against anything off-line, and Foakes grew in confidence, especially through the leg side.
Foakes hit 64 from 121 runs upon his return to the side and has also impressed with the gloves
After ticking off David Gower’s England-record 449 runs in a Test series in Pakistan, Brook moved to three figures with a stroke of typical class, joining George Headley, Arthur Morris, Conrad Hunte, Sunil Gasvakar and Mohammad Azharuddin as the only players to score three hundreds in their first four Tests.
His restorative stand with Foakes was ended by a nip-backer from Wasim, before Rehan Ahmed’s first Test innings lasted just three balls – caught at midwicket aiming something extravagant at Nauman.
But the tail wagged, and England assumed control once more, scoring at 4.32 an over off Abrar, who added four wickets to the 11 he took at Multan but without the same menace.
If Stokes’s team finish 2022 with their ninth win out of 10, they will know who to thank.
TOP SPIN AT THE TEST
Harry Brook became just the seventh England player to score at least three Test hundreds before the age of 24 – after Len Hutton, Ian Botham, David Gower, Mike Atherton, Alastair Cook and Joe Root.
Only India’s Mohammad Azharuddin has taken fewer than Brook’s six innings to score his first three Test centuries. Azharuddin got there in four knocks, all against England in 1984-85. West Indies’ George Headley in 1930, Australia’s Arthur Morris in 1947 and India’s Vinod Kambli in 1993, all took six innings as well.
Brook has 468 runs in this series, more than any other England batsman in a series in Pakistan. The previous record belonged to Gower, who made 449 in 1983-84.
When Brook lifted Abrar Ahmed down the ground shortly before lunch, it was England’s 88th six in Test cricket in 2022 – a record for a calendar year, beating India’s 87 in 2021.