2nd Test, Wellington, February 24 - 28, 2023, England tour of New Zealand
(T:258) 435/8d & 256
(f/o) 209 & 483

New Zealand won by 1 run

Player Of The Match
Player Of The Series
329 runs • 1 wkt

Harry Brook's latest exploits hand England control after stuttering start

Brook and Joe Root score unbeaten tons during 294-run stand to lift England out of trouble

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
England 315 for 3 (Brook 184*, Root 101*) vs New Zealand
Harry Brook came into the Wellington Test in possession of some of the most outrageous stats in the history of the game for a batter at the start of their career - and promptly turned the amps up to 11 with an astonishing display on day one at the Basin Reserve.
It began with Brook tip-toeing to the crease amid the wreckage of England's top order, as New Zealand's reshaped seam attack capitalised on helpful morning conditions to reduce the tourists to 21 for 3. He walked off with the weather closing in again, but with England in a far sunnier mood. In between times, Brook had peeled off a career-best 184 not out from 169 balls, taking his Test average above 100 (and with a strike rate of 99.38 into the bargain).
Oh, and Joe Root scored an immaculate, unbeaten hundred, too.
Their unbroken stand of 294, already the third-highest for England's fourth wicket in Tests, turned the tables completely on New Zealand after they had made what seemed an impeccable start on winning the toss and choosing to bowl for the second week running.
As in Mount Maunganui, England's aggression helped wrest the initiative away - by the time the forecast rain arrived midway through the evening session their overall run rate was 4.84. But that only told part of the story, with Brook and Root employing different methods to counterattack after Matt Henry and Tim Southee had made the early incisions on a green pitch that was expected to flatten out.
Brook, as has been his wont during a patch of regal scoring that began with a century in his second match, in Rawalpindi before Christmas, chose barely fettered aggression throughout his innings. Southee was dispatched for three consecutive boundaries in his fifth over, and that set the tone for Brook's approach; in all, 24 fours and five sixes came from his bat during another coruscating display.
He moved to fifty just before lunch, as England reached the break on a more even keel, then raised a 107-ball hundred - his fourth in nine Test innings - during the afternoon session, during which the visitors rattled off 136 runs in 27 overs to transfer the pressure on to New Zealand's beleaguered attack.
Brook's assault, audacious as it was, displayed a high degree of calculation. With New Zealand picking only three frontline bowlers - Henry, back after the birth of his child, and top-order batter Will Young coming in for Mount Mauganui debutants, Blair Tickner and Scott Kuggeleijn - Brook in particular chose to go after the support.
Against Daryl Mitchell, nominally the fourth seamer, he struck four sixes - three towering blows down the ground and one impudent ramp to fine leg - and went at a strike rate of 158.06. Michael Bracewell's offspin was dispatched for 22 off 15, while Neil Wagner saw his short-ball tactics dismantled for the second Test running, conceding six fours and a six. Only Henry, who gave Brook a few moments of concern early on, kept things tight, conceding just 33 off 49 balls bowled.
While Brook plundered runs almost at will, adding his third fifty from just 38 balls, Root was content to slipstream his junior partner. His 29th Test hundred featured just seven boundaries, the majority of which came during the latter stages of the day - one via a perfectly executed reverse-ramp off the bowling of Wagner, the shot which had brought his downfall in the first innings last week at Bay Oval.
He was on 23 at lunch, coasted along to 72 at tea and was visibly relieved to bring up three figures for the first time in 12 innings, turning Wagner into the leg side from the final delivery before the rain began to fall in earnest.
Such a position of English dominance took on even more outlandish proportions given how incisively New Zealand had begun the morning session. Basin Reserve has a reputation for flattening out, never mind how green-tinged the surface, and most captains winning the toss look to eke out whatever small advantage they can: it is more than a decade since a team opted to bat first in a Wellington Test.
Southee knew all this, saying that New Zealand were "accustomed to a very good cricket surface" at the ground, and would therefore have been delighted by the start for his side. Henry struck twice in his first three overs and Southee added a third as Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett all failed to make much headway.
Henry beat Duckett with a beauty in his first over, although a review only proved the ball had flicked the trouser pocket. There were just a handful of scoring shots in the opening exchanges, as England were forced to temper their Bazball instincts, and the card read 5 for 1 in the fourth when Crawley felt at a wide ball from Henry - albeit on a perfect length - to be dismissed for his fourth single-figure score in six knocks.
Pope fired off a volley of attacking shots in response but he was soon gone, as Henry jagged one away on an off-stump line to find the edge. Bracewell held the sharp chance at third slip, and then took an even better catch in the following over to leave England three-down. Duckett was again looking to be proactive, driving hard at one in the channel from Southee, and the edge flew to the left of Bracewell, who threw himself full length for a one-handed take, even managing to juggle it safely as the ball threatened to pop loose after his arm hit the turf.
England were on the back foot, but soon began landing their punches in a familiar counterattack. Brook's first boundary was edged wide of the cordon as Henry got the ball to kick from a length, but England's form batter launched into Southee next over before clubbing Mitchell down the ground and then taking on Wagner with a series of belligerent blows through the leg side. Brook was on the move and soon looked unstoppable - which to all intents and purposes he was.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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