Tour Match (D/N), Hamilton, February 08 - 09, 2023, England tour of New Zealand

Harry Brook sets the tempo as England make pink-ball hay in Hamilton

Belligerent batting display ensures visitors make good use of only practice ahead of Tests

Harry Brook drives through the covers during England's warm-up match  •  Getty Images

Harry Brook drives through the covers during England's warm-up match  •  Getty Images

England XI 465 (Brook 97, Lawrence 85, Root 77, Foakes 57) vs New Zealand XI
For a warm-up fixture that had started to feel like an afterthought before it had even begun, England made the first meaningful day of cricket on this tour count. A score of 465 was blitzed in 69.2 overs against a New Zealand XI, with 55 fours and 17 sixes hammering home a mantra that the hosts are all too familiar with.
As New Zealand's favourite son Brendon McCullum watched those under his care squeeze plenty of juice from their only competitive day's batting before the first Test begins a week Thursday, it was clear the apparently blasé approach to this fixture did not carry over onto the field. There was no toss, with England given the opportunity to bat the entirety of day one ahead of bowling all of day two. There was no Ben Stokes, either, with the captain opting to go through his own preparations to offer up an extra batting spot and give Ollie Pope another small dose of leadership. Only nine tourists were named in the XI ahead of the 2pm start.
Adding to the cushty nature was the presence of Blackcaps captain Tim Southee. A white baseball cap hinted at an incognito look at the opposition, but any whiff of espionage was quashed when Southee caught up with McCullum before sitting down with Stokes and the England staff to chat about anything and everything. Better concealed was the former New Zealand limited-overs batter Anton Devcich in full England training gear. The Hamilton local has been lending a helping hand in training.
Though play ended prematurely at 8:23pm with 20.4 overs of the 90 remaining, this had been a worthwhile endeavour. Particularly for Harry Brook, leading the way with a pugnacious 97, followed by 85 for Dan Lawrence, 77 for Joe Root and an accomplished 57 from Ben Foakes.
Brook's knock was the one of note, fast-tracking the innings, notably during a five-over spell before tea in which he and Yorkshire team-mate Root hammered 47. The pair combined for 115 in 16.1 overs for the fourth wicket, following starts from Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley and Pope that had lifted England to 95 from 17 overs.
This was originally pencilled in as a four-day affair, as per the posters dotted throughout the ground, before the reduction to two to focus solely on the pink-ball elements ahead of the day-night opener in Mount Maunganui. That decision was ultimately made in Pakistan, a series also preceded by a reduced two-day scrimmage against England Lions. On that occasion, the decision to trim off a day was taken after conversations among the players at stumps on day two.
The knock-on effect of that discussion has been to give the players more ownership of their individual games, particularly when off-duty. That includes rest. Brook, for example, pulled out of a deal with SA20 franchise Joburg Super Kings to spend a bit more time at home after his player-of-the-series exploits in Pakistan.
"I made the decision with England to pull out of the new South Africa competition and that was massive for me," Brook said. "I was meant to travel on the 7th and I wasn't quite ready to be completely honest, and I'm glad I pulled out in the end. That month was massive, just to be able to spend some time with the family and relax and not really touch a cricket bat was good. Hopefully I can come back in full flow this year and dominate."
Not that he'll be lacking for the experience or coin. A £1.3million deal with Sunrisers Hyderabad for the upcoming IPL has only just sunk in. It is the fulfilment of a dream, even if he wasn't expecting to go for as much. "Every little helps," he said with a wry smile.
This time last year, Brook was a non-playing member of England's white-ball tour to West Indies. As he says, a fair bit has changed.
"Last year was probably the best year of my life, lifestyle and cricket-wise, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Standing here saying I'm a World cup winner is unbelievable and nobody can ever take that away from me. It was a phenomenal year."
His work on Wednesday afternoon in Hamilton was far more attacking than his three innings across six days in Bloemfontein and Kimberley had been in last week's ODI series: 97 off 71 versus 86 from 87. All four of his sixes during the ODIs came in the same knock of 80 in the second match. Today, five in a row came in the 36th over after Brook had played out a first-ball dot from legspinner Adithya Ashok. The first of those blows - comfortably the biggest of his nine - landed on Tristram Street which runs along the west of the ground. An attempted attempt for a 10th to take Brook to three figures was snared smartly on the thirf boundary to give Jarrod McKay the second of his 3 for 72. The first - cartwheeling Crawley's middle stump - was the most spectacular blow landed.
"To be honest, the way we're playing cricket at the minute, it doesn't really change," Brook said, when asked about switching continents and ball colours in the space of a week. "I batted a lot slower for the 80 I got in South Africa than I did out there. We're looking to put pressure on the bowlers, trying to hit them off the spot and keep the pressure on throughout."
He admitted to a degree of pressure in his own head to score briskly, which in turn meant his movements were a bit off by his own exacting standards. Nevertheless, he was impressed with his ball-striking beyond that one devastating over.
"I think I've got a little bit stronger so I feel like I'm hitting the ball a bit harder," he said. "Whether that's just because I've been given the freedom to go out and play in a positive way and take the match on or I've just got stronger. I just feel like I'm hitting the ball a lot harder than I was before."
It was hard not to sympathise with those chasing leather, particularly given the heavy green tinge to their side. Ashok, for instance, only has one first-class appearance under his belt for Auckland against Central Districts back in October, though he did take 5 for 108 in his only innings of that game. Even with the misfortune of being thrashed around here for 82 from nine overs, he did at least emerge with the dismissal of Root, albeit a fortuitous caught-behind down the leg side off a lackadaisical sweep.
By then Root had had his fun, pulling out the now-characteristic lap over third man for the first of two sixes, sending a reminder to the watching Southee after the hard launch of that shot in last summer's Trent Bridge Test. By the time Lawrence got stuck in, the inferiority of the New Zealand attack was shining through as the sun dimmed.
Play was at its most competitive when Kyle Jamieson had the ball in hand, and 15 overs of constant pressure throughout the day will have boosted Southee more than his eventual haul of 3 for 65. Jamieson has not played international cricket since picking up a back injury in that same Test in Nottingham, and has been working up to full fitness with limited-overs cricket.
After shaking out a bit of rust on his return to whites, he removed Duckett with a neat delivery that drew the left-hander forward and slightly across for an edge through to Tom Bruce at second slip. A return in the final session exploited a bit of extra juice with the floodlights to square Lawrence up for another catch to Bruce in the cordon, before Will Jacks was turned inside-out to be caught at first slip this time.
New Zealand's coach Gary Stead has not confirmed whether Jamieson will make his comeback in the first or second Test. The decision won't be made on this outing alone, although given England's mood, and the absence of Trent Boult, perhaps it should be.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

NZ XI Innings
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