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Match Analysis

Harry Brook atones for Ben Stokes run-out by making history with third hundred

"It probably makes you concentrate more," explains England's record-breaker after comedy mix-up with captain

Harry Brook acknowledges the crowd's applause as he walks off, Pakistan vs England, 3rd Test, Karachi, 2nd day, December 18, 2022

Harry Brook acknowledges the crowd's applause as he walks off  •  AFP/Getty Images

It takes a bolshy, self-assured, unique soul to run out your captain.
There's a point when you realise it's happening and you wonder what the right decision is, moments after you've made the catastrophic wrong one. The latter, in this instance, was a hesitation from Harry Brook bringing him to a standstill that proved terminal for Ben Stokes, who was charging to his end for a comfortable third.
Your options at that point are pretty clear. Sacrifice yourself for the leader? Maybe, and in this case that would have meant Brook setting off to the non-striker's end in vain. And heck, as much as people like to pretend, this isn't war. It's only a game, arguably both the silliest and most selfish of them all. Brook was on 42, Stokes 26 - and only one of them in the midst of a historical purple patch. Brook decided his best bet for his own safety was to retreat back to the end he'd tentatively left, touching his bat in fractionally before Stokes got there.
There was none of the animosity the situation would usually elicit - not that you would expect there to be with this group. This is as free-spirited an England team there has been, liberated from the conservative shackles of English Test cricket long before they arrived in Karachi with an unassailable 2-0 lead.
On Friday, England's preparations for the third Test concluded with a six-hitting competition between the northerners and southerners within the squad (won by the northerners), followed by a one-on-one competition between Stokes and Brendon McCullum. Stokes lost, meaning he had to serve dinner to the best-on-show for the winners - which was Brook. Here they were, two days later, Brook returning the favour by barbecuing his skipper. "I'll have to serve him dinner tonight," Brook reflected, with a grin. "And tuck his little towel [napkin] in."
Brook offered a hand up in apology. Stokes immediately reciprocated with a thumbs-up. The next time their paths crossed at tea, Brook had 108 not out, on his way to an eventual 111 that provided the backbone for England's first innings of 354.
"It was probably my fault to be honest," Brook said, hands up in the press conference. "I'll take the blame. There probably was three there. I was slightly lazy with my running. I was a bit tired to be honest." Understandably so, given the 23-year-old's output this last month, off the back of England's successful T20 World Cup campaign and a stellar T20I series on these shores before that.
One of the many things you can say about Brook, with great confidence, is the Yorkshire batter just seems to belong. He's in the team for good, even once Jonny Bairstow returns. He's in the conversation as one of the best young multi-format batters going. He's worthy of mention among the sport's legendary names, many from the days of yore.
A third century in as many Tests on this tour has him alongside the likes of George Headley, Arthur Morris, Conrad Hunt and Sunil Gavaskar as players with three or more in their first four caps. Only Mohammad Azharuddin has managed as many in fewer than Brook's six innings.
He is also now England's leading run-scorer in an overseas Test series against Pakistan, with 468 runs a ludicrous average of 93.60 and an even more ludicrous strike rate of 93.41. A crisp brace through the covers took him to 93 and and ahead of Alastair Cook's tally of 450 during the 2015-16 series in the UAE.
More historical, perhaps, was the first of those two runs, which moved him to a record English tally in Pakistan, passing David Gower's 449 in 1983-84. Which is funny because, just last year, Brook's grandma made a move on Gower when she was collecting the Cricket Writers' Club young cricketer of the year award on his behalf. Evidently, seizing your moment on a big stage is a family trait.
Even if the series is England's, you could argue the centuries have been of escalating importance, certainly within the sole context of the matches themselves. The first - off 80 deliveries - was England's fourth (and fastest) on day one of the series, as the tourists closed on 506 for 4 in 75 overs. His most productive knock was arguably his 87 from 65 in the second innings which allowed England to declare with a lead of 342 at tea on day four, before going on to secure the win with just 10 minutes of light to spare on the final day.
Number two in Brook's charts was the only century of the Multan Test, pushing England to 275 in their second innings to ensure Pakistan had to chase 355. They needed almost all of those runs, eventually coming through by 26. From a personal point of view, it was also the product of some necessary recalibration, after failing as one of Abrar Ahmed's seven victims earlier in the match: skying to mid-off having played from his crease, which he recognised afterwards is not something he usually does.
He carried that experience into his second innings on Sunday, with Abrar on the receiving end of all three of Brook's sixes, all down the ground over the bowler's head, whom he took for 63 from 65 deliveries overall. Without Brook's calm, England's recovery from 58 for 3 and 98 for 4 would have been a lot trickier, and even parity with Pakistan's 304 might have been a long way off. In the end, with the help of Ben Foakes - with whom he shared a stand of 117 - and some contributions from the tail, a lead of 50 was established. Pakistan resume on Monday on 21 without loss.
Just as with the previous two hundreds, Brook's celebration when his 133rd ball was struck off the back foot through the covers - off Abrar - was devoid of any emotion bar satisfaction. Even the remorse of running out a team-mate on his way to a century - as happened with Ollie Pope in the previous Test - was given a positive, tongue-in-cheek spin.
"It probably makes you concentrate a little bit more actually, when you've been involved in a run-out," he began. "But obviously I was involved in Ollie Pope last week and I went on to get a hundred in that game. So maybe I should start something up."
Evidently, the confidence Brook is exuding is nothing new. He revealed that, prior to coming on tour, he predicted a decent run: "I actually said to one of my mates before I came out here that I would love to get two hundreds out here, so obviously to go one better is a very nice feeling."
He went on to revel in the fact he has given those above him a problem to consider, given Bairstow's forthcoming return following a golf accident that opened the door for Brook. "Most selectors say they like headaches, so hopefully I've caused a very big migraine."
Bairstow's return to competitive action is unlikely to come until the start of the Indian Premier League, meaning he is expected to miss the two Tests out in New Zealand; Brook believes his Yorkshire team-mate will come straight back into the side when he is available, and he is almost certainly right.
As for where that might be, Brook says that is for other people to decide. But really, he has probably made their minds up for them.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo