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Match Analysis

Harry Brook makes hay on the inside track as he takes to Pakistan like a veteran

Prior knowledge of Pakistan conditions gives 23-year-old wisdom beyond his years

Harry Brook is leading the run-charts in a historic series for England  •  Getty Images

Harry Brook is leading the run-charts in a historic series for England  •  Getty Images

Over the course of these last few weeks in Pakistan, you've had to remind yourself Harry Brook is only 23. His assurance, on and off the field, is that of someone who has been here for a while, so comfortable in Test cricket he's walking around with his shoes off.
Three caps in and he is already making waves. He is the leading run-scorer in the series out here, with 357 from four innings, two of those centuries of 153 and 108, along with an 87 in the second innings of the first Test, boasting an average of 89.25. Off the back of the T20I series against Pakistan back in October, top of the pile then with 231 at 79.33 and a strike rate of 163.01, it led Test captain Ben Stokes to reference Virat Kohli in terms of the all-format success Brook could enjoy in his career.
As Stokes admitted himself, it was a "massive shout", but not at all without merit. Even after a quiet T20 World Cup in Australia, it is clear that Brook's technique is transferrable across all codes. As for the chutzpah, well, it's tough to know if that even has a ceiling. The pressure of this level, the pressure of great expectation on a former U19 captain who was destined for big things long before he came on everyone's radar, has been taken in his stride.
The Keighley drawl, the sense of utter control, the manner in which he speaks gives the essence of a veteran. Especially the muted celebrations both times he reached three figures. "I've never been one for massive celebrations. I think I've always had that inner confidence to be able to score hundreds, and score big runs so I don't just want to score one or two hundreds," he said. "I want to score plenty."
But there are still tells of a young man just making his way. The wide eyes and unweathered smile, a gait without aches and a youthful disposition - that the world and cricket has so much more to offer him. He doesn't look like he can grow facial hair but, given what he's already accomplished in Islamabad and Multan, who's to say he won't come out of Karachi with a full beard to rival old Saint Nick in time for Christmas.
In both innings of that first Test, he knocked on Gilbert Jessop's coffin, threatening to take a 120-year-old record for the fastest English century in the format. Nevertheless, he has still managed to get himself into the record books. Brook has become only the third England player, after KS Ranjitsinhji and Clive Radley, to score two hundreds in his first three Tests. He also joins Sir Alastair Cook as one of two players to have scored two centuries overseas before turning 24.
The best thing about all that? He could take or leave those accolades, and even goes as far to suggest he has been fortunate so early in his career.
"That stuff doesn't really bother me," Brook said of the records. "I'm very lucky to have started here, these are very good wickets to bat on, I know it fairly well having played here. It might have been a bit different if we'd been playing in England on a spicy one, so I'm very fortunate to have started here."
A debut at The Oval against South Africa reaped just 12 runs in his only innings, and so to come to Pakistan where, as he says, the pitches have been amenable to batting, has helped. Then again, his experiences here even before the T20I series, as part of Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League, has put him in good stead.
"I think I'm quite lucky, the fact that I'm playing in Pakistan. Obviously, I've had a bit of success here this year with the PSL [260 runs at 52.80, including a maiden T20 hundred] and then the T20 series with England, so I kind of knew what I was expecting before coming out here. I've faced all of the bowlers - well, most of the bowlers - and I knew what the wickets were like. I'm very fortunate and lucky to start my career out here and start off like I have done."
One of those he had never seen before is Abrar Ahmed, the main source of resistance in Multan. The bespectacled 24-year-old took 11 wickets on debut, including 7 for 114 in the first innings. Brook was the fifth of those seven, trying and failing to hit the legspinner down the ground, and caught mid-on for just 9. Brook would make amends in the second innings with a century from 137 deliveries, and make hay against Abrar with 57 off 69 for his eventual 108.
The switch from the first innings to the second came through acknowledging a mistake and putting it right. Brook admits he was irate with how he played the spinner on day one and, following a chat with Martin Speight, a former first-class cricketer for Sussex and Durham who oversaw Brook's cricket at Sedbergh School, set about putting it right.
"I was very disappointed with the way I got out in the first innings so I wanted to stamp my foot down and get a score," he said. "I was pretty disappointed with that. I spoke to my coach back home, my school coach Martin Speight, and he was like, 'I know you'll learn from it' and then I did.
"I was probably a bit reckless, I don't tend to hit from the crease against leg-spin, and I tried it, and I got out, so I learnt that. I was very happy with the second innings."
With England arriving in Karachi on Wednesday, the focus now turns from a series win towards the chance to complete a sweep over Pakistan and end 2022 on a high. Training on Thursday will primarily be for those who did not play in Multan, with most of the squad enjoying a rest day which, naturally, includes a bit of golf.
For Brook, the National Stadium will be familiar territory having played six T20s there. "The pitch might be slightly different," he mused, as if he's been around the traps for yonks. "But generally in Pakistan they're all pretty similar, they're usually skiddy, low and fairly slow."
Having replaced Jonny Bairstow following his freakish golf accident Brook now looks immovable at No.5. Indeed, his form presents arguably the first real headache of the McCullum-Stokes era. Any decision on how the team looks once Bairstow returns remains to be seen. Brook, meanwhile, is settled.
"I've gone out there and I think I slot into this team fairly well with the way I've played. I'm generally quite an aggressive player who always looks to score and put the bowler under pressure, so it suits my natural game. And it's been quite easy to slot in, and the lads have been great. So it's been good fun."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo