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Match Analysis

Brook arrives in the IPL and shows why he is a future superstar

After starting his Sunrisers stint with three low scores, he smashed a 55-ball century as an opener

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
15-Apr-2023
When it came to Harry Brook, it was never a question of "if"; rather, only "when". Having built a sensational body of work in his early international career, before making his IPL debut, there was a sense of inevitability.
It didn't happen in the first three games, in part because Sunrisers Hyderabad struggled in two of those and Brook had to mould his game accordingly. But on Friday against Kolkata Knight Riders, Brook showed why he's being billed as a superstar for the future. Having been promoted to the top order, he scored the season's first century - and his second T20 ton - off only 55 balls.
There had been plenty of things going against him. Kolkata welcomed him with the day's temperatures touching 41, humidity levels at almost 100%, and an Eden Gardens crowd aching to see him fail a fourth time. With scores of 13, 3 and 13 in his first three IPL innings, the price-tag pressure of INR 13.25 crore (approx. US $1.61m) mounted. Checking his social-media mentions after those three failures didn't help him either.
"I was putting pressure on myself a little bit for the first few games," Brook said after his unbeaten 100 took Sunrisers to victory. "I went on to social media, people were calling me rubbish, and you start to doubt yourself a little bit."
The pressure was not apparent on the field, though. Brook began his innings by smacking four fours and two sixes in the first three overs of the game, bowled by Umesh Yadav and Lockie Ferguson.
The two fast bowlers stuck to an off-stump line but Brook sent those balls to three distinct places. His quick skips to the leg side sent cuts through point for four. When he walked towards off, he got low to scoop those same balls over short fine leg. When he didn't move, his full face of the bat sent the ball to long-off. At one stage, he had raced away to 31 off 11.
But for Brook, this was a relatively new job. In 93 T20 innings before the IPL, he had opened only three times. His imperious T20 numbers - an average of 34.14 and a strike rate of 147.77 - have been built from Nos. 4 to 6 with England, Yorkshire, Northern Superchargers, Lahore Qalandars and Hobart Hurricanes.
However, the middle order was not the right fit for an IPL rookie like Brook. He was struggling against spin - a strike rate of 80, and an average of 6 told the story - in the middle overs, and teams were beginning to target him with that match-up. So when regular opener Abhishek Sharma was briefly out with injury and Anmolpreet Singh didn't impress, Brook was asked to open. On Friday, the start was promising.
Brook's burst had given Sunrisers such a headstart that Knight Riders were forced to introduce spin early. This was going to be his acid test and he passed it by tossing the strike over to Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram and Abhishek, who are all more adept at playing spin. Brook didn't hit a boundary between the sixth and 14th overs; it was the boundaries from the other end - in particular from Markram during his half-century - that kept the score ticking towards 200.
But when most of Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy's overs were done, Brook re-emerged. Knight Riders brought pace back in the form of Ferguson, and Brook charged at him to hit for four fours and a six in the 15th over. Suyash Sharma and Shardul Thakur weren't spared either as Brook reached his century with a single to long-on. Brook looked exhausted but flashed a smile.
There was also a sense of satisfaction in his smile. He had perfectly executed the plan, playing to his strengths and letting others show off theirs. He took 34 runs off 29 against the spinners, while smashing the pacers for 66 off 26.
"I have had quite a lot of success batting at No. 5 and made my name batting at No. 5, but I'm happy to do this"
Harry Brook doesn't mind a shift up the order
"I went out with an 'I-don't-care' mentality tonight, and thankfully it paid off," Brook said. "Indian fans out there are probably going to say 'Well done' tonight, but they were slagging me off a few days ago. Glad that I could shut them up.
"A lot of people say that opening the batting in T20 is the best time to bat; you've only got two fielders out. But I'm happy to bat anywhere. [I] have [had] quite a lot of success batting at No. 5 and made my name batting at No. 5, but I'm happy to do this. Unfortunately my four Test hundreds will have to be above this one, but this is definitely up there."
In the post-game press conference, Abhishek revealed that the decision to bump Brook to the top was taken by head coach Brian Lara and the management after his own injury. Abhishek said that that Brook's struggles against spin were acknowledged in the set-up, and therefore he was moved up the order.
It resulted in Abhishek moving down the order, but he was fine with the decision. Abhishek said he knew about Brook's talent from way back - they were India Under-19 and England Under-19 captains respectively when the two teams had met during a tour of the UK in 2017.
There was just one thing missing in Brook's perfect day, and that was his parents not being there to witness it. They had travelled with Sunrisers for three games, but left for the UK before the Kolkata fixture. Brook said that he had a funny feeling that fate would have a cruel way to now give him the gift of runs. And we have a feeling that his parents will get plenty of opportunities in the years to come.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx