Familiar problems for Joe Root, new short-ball problems for Harry Brook

Harry Brook scored a less than fluent 26 for Yorkshire at Gloucestershire - Familiar problems for Joe Root, new short-ball problems for Harry Brook
Harry Brook scored a less than fluent 26 for Yorkshire at Gloucestershire - Getty Images/Dan Mullan

England’s first Test against West Indies is not until July 10 at Lord’s, but West Indian Test cricket showed signs of a revival when defeating Australia in Brisbane earlier this year, so it would be a surprise if their analyst failed to note the manner of Harry Brook’s dismissal by Gloucestershire in the second round of championship matches in Division Two.

‌Joe Root scored only two in his first red-ball innings for Yorkshire since July 2022, dismissed LBW when he fell across his crease to the offside, just as he had been doing in the first half of England’s Test series in India. But the old master sorted that problem out in the second half there, and no doubt will again; it is the young master, who already has a fabulous record as England’s number five, who seems to have more of a problem to judge by this innings of 26.

‌It must be a long time since Gloucestershire’s pace attack caused sleepless nights, but the groundsman had spread the boundary ropes deep on one side (the old orphanage side) and a pacey attack went after Brook with the surprise bouncer. In the Ashes Test at Lord’s he had faced a bouncer barrage but then every ball was short, after Nathan Lyon had limped off, and Brook had been able to set himself to hook and pull before the ball was delivered.

Brook was a model of studious defence after Root had been dismissed and Yorkshire, having been sent in, had stumbled to 25 for three. It was when the bouncer came along that Brook showed signs of coming down to earth from his imperious hundred against Leicestershire on Monday.

Marchant de Lange hit Brook on the right shoulder with a short ball, and compelled Brook, on five, to play out a maiden over, which he has seldom done in any format since his England debut. In de Lange’s next over Brook hooked at a bouncer that whistled through him as he went to hook.

Harry Brook batting for Yorkshire
Brook was strangely subdued during his knock in Bristol - Getty Images/Dan Mullan

Some early lateral movement of swing and seam had already justified Gloucestershire’s decision to bowl, but it was subsiding by the time Brook came in and struggled to 11 off 37 balls. He played and missed at the lively Ajeet Singh Dale and was then hit on the body a second time, by a nip-backer. Something had to give.

‌Brook’s signature shot was his riposte. Dale, bowling at the end with the shorter legside boundary, was swung by Brook for six in front of square-leg. Brook was surely up and running now, but no. Zaman Akhtar, also lively, gave Brook a bouncer that was hooked for four between the fielders on the boundary on the longer side of the ground – and he had the temerity to follow up with another short ball. It was not so straight as some of the other short balls, more outside off, and Brook was never in control of this shot.

‌Being Brook, he still got plenty of bat on it, but his stroke sent the ball upwards and over and wide of mid-on. De Lange ran back and caught it well over his shoulder: Brook gone for 26 off 55 balls. Given the time difference, somebody in the West Indies must have been awake to spot what might turn out to be the heel of Achilles.

‌After Yorkshire had been taken to a sturdy total by their captain Shan Masood’s 140, Brook fielded in the slips, often at third, which was Jonny Bairstow’s spot for England but probably not any more. Whether Bairstow keeps wicket or retires, Brook is taking his positions.

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