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Harry Brook given key chance to make Eoin Morgan's place his own

Yorkshire rookie showed glimpses of his rich promise on difficult night at Ageas Bowl

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Harry Brook cuts through the off side during the first T20I  •  Getty Images

Harry Brook cuts through the off side during the first T20I  •  Getty Images

Harry Brook is only 23 but his first home game for England had been a long time coming. Named as the spare batter in all four Test squads this summer, Brook has mixed more than his fair share of isotonic drinks and has covered hundreds of miles driving to and from Test venues back to county grounds this summer, but finally got the opportunity to play on Thursday night at the Ageas Bowl.
It was only the second appearance of his international career but he has made significant progress since his first, when he made 10 off 13 balls from No. 7 in Barbados as England fell short chasing 225 against West Indies. He followed that series with the PSL, winning the title with Lahore Qalandars and scoring his maiden T20 hundred, and the runs have flowed for Yorkshire this summer: 926 at 115.75 in the County Championship and 434 at 43.40 in the Vitality Blast.
Now, he has the opportunity to stake his claim for inclusion in England's white-ball squads, and as their T20 finisher in particular. Eoin Morgan's retirement has opened up a vacancy in the lower-middle order and, even in a full-strength team, there should be room for Brook in that role if he makes a positive impression over the next month. That he was given first crack ahead of Phil Salt, who thrived in Amsterdam last month and made 57 off 24 on his own T20I debut in Barbados, shows how highly Brook is rated by the England hierarchy.
Brook's first act on Thursday night was a brilliant piece of work in the field, making the sort of stop that would have seemed remarkable a decade ago but has become commonplace for modern athletes: Ishan Kishan cracked Reece Topley out towards midwicket but Brook ran around to his right from square leg and slapped the bouncing ball back into play while jumping over the rope.
By the time Brook came into bat at 29 for 3 after five overs, England's hopes had effectively vanished, and he got a life second-ball when Dinesh Karthik dropped a chance behind the stumps, the first of three drops on a difficult night for him. When Jason Roy was out for a scratchy 4 off 16, Brook might have looked to consolidate; instead, he steered Hardik Pandya for four, then flat-batted him for six over long-on.
He was dropped again by Karthik on 15, and then largely looked to give the strike to Moeen Ali against the spinners, though he did crash Axar Patel through cover for four and often looked to give himself room to hit through the off side. Yuzvendra Chahal will have taken notice of Brook's failure to pick his googly, which has often been used as a weapon against him.
He eventually fell for 28 off 23 balls, caught at deep midwicket off Chahal looking to hit against the spin through the leg side. While his strike rate of 121.73 reflected a nervous, somewhat scratchy innings, there were enough glimpses of his talent to leave a positive impression.
Heading towards Australia and this year's T20 World Cup - which starts in exactly 100 days' time - Brook's challenge will be to carve out a niche for himself as a finisher, a slightly different role to the one he usually fulfills in domestic T20 cricket where he has tended to bat at No. 4. A poor Big Bash season for Hobart Hurricanes last year may count against him but he has come a long way since the start of the year.
England need to manage him carefully, too, since he is on the fringes of selection across formats. If he thrives this month in white-ball cricket, they will naturally be tempted to pick him against South Africa in August's Test series. But if he is a key part of their World Cup plans, perhaps he would be best served playing a full season for Northern Superchargers in the Hundred rather than switching back and forth between formats - though his game is relatively similar against both red and white balls.
Brook has already found himself some influential supporters, not least Kevin Pietersen. "He's the replacement for Eoin Morgan," KP said on commentary for Sky Sports on Thursday night. "This guy can play. The first time I saw him was in the Hundred last year and he's a 360 player. Ravi Shastri was talking about Suryakumar Yadav as a 360 player. Harry Brook is that player for England."
Back-to-back T20Is at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge this weekend will present him with another opportunity to prove it.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98