Harry Brook smashes century from 69 balls on return to cricket

Harry Brook raising his bat - Harry Brook smashes century from 69 balls on return to cricket
Harry Brook finally got to bat on the fourth day of the opening round of Championship fixtures - Shutterstock/John Mallett

Harry Brook marked his return to competitive cricket after a break for personal reasons by scoring an unbeaten hundred off 69 balls against Leicestershire at Headingley.

The 25-year-old withdrew from England’s tour of India and then the Indian Premier League due to the illness and passing away of his grandmother with whom he was very close.

Brook’s 12th first-class century (four of them in Tests) contained 14 fours and two sixes, and was celebrated with a skywards look after taking off his helmet and raising his bat.

Yorkshire declared the moment he reached his landmark in their attempt to maximise bonus points before the match met its inevitable fate of a draw.

The what ifs immediately began. What if Brook had played in England’s Test series in India and batted at No 5, instead of keeping his grandmother Pauline company in her last days? He would surely have reached a score of 40, as Jonny Bairstow failed to do.

Yorkshire’s head coach Ottis Gibson said that having Brook back in their line-up, for his first appearance for the county since July 2022, made “a huge difference. A lot of the communication was from him. We’ve put no pressure on him to play. ‘You go at your own pace with regards to when you come in here at Headingley’.

“To be fair, he’s been coming in and has been having lots of nets. At a time like this, he’s been wanting to be around people he’s comfortable with. One of the conversations that we’ve had is that he just wants to play cricket with his mates again. He’s got a lot of mates in the dressing room, they’ve played a lot of cricket together and grown up through the age-groups.

“This is his comfort in a difficult time. We are the benefactors of that, and we are very grateful to have him. I think we’ll enjoy watching him bat for the next four games if he carries on batting the way he is.” Gibson also confirmed that Joe Root will join Brook in Yorkshire’s team for their next championship match against Gloucestershire at Bristol on Friday.

Brook walked in to bat in the first over of day four, once play had resumed after lunch, and immediately the class oozed like water under the covers on days two and three.

He took guard outside his popping crease to counter any seam movement that the visiting seamers might have obtained. To his first ball of this season he inched forward and covered it completely, steering it out on the leg side in front of square.

One ball was sufficient. Having played himself in, he played a perfect drive, between mid-off and the bowler Matt Salisbury, and dispatched his second ball for four. It made a contrast with the off drive which George Hill, Brook’s successor from Sedbergh school, had miscued to mid-off earlier in the over.

It was a slow pitch but Brook was anything but. Scott Currie disappeared for two consecutive leg-side sixes, as Brook unleashed his signature shot, the pull-cum-whip off his front foot. Tom Scriven disappeared for three consecutive offside fours. Brook’s partner Adam Lyth could only watch and pick up the runs, more sedately, to reach his 101 off 100 balls.

Brook had also pulled out of the IPL, for the same considerate reason, but he played some of the shots that he had unveiled in his sole century in the IPL in the previous edition, like a scoop. His 50 came up off only 35 balls, albeit Leicestershire’s seam attack was not quite of international standard, although it was augmented by the wrist-spin of England’s Rehan Ahmed.

Brook reached 96 but then had to watch while Yorkshire lost two wickets in one over by Ben Mike, the former Yorkshire all-rounder who has returned to Leicestershire. To reach 98 Brook, all arms and little footwork but great balance, hammered Salisbury through mid-off for two. The next ball was a full toss – such is the pressure that he puts on bowlers – which he thrashed to the cover sweeper, but it was Rehan who stopped it and kept him to a single.

Remarkably Brook played defensively at the next two balls by Salisbury then played and missed a drive at Mike when he hit over a wide full ball. But when he glanced the next ball to fine-leg Brook had still needed only 69 balls to reach three figures.

This innings was made for Yorkshire in Division Two. If,or rather when, Brook can make a Test century at a similar rate, it will be the fastest hundred for England.

The only result in the first round of championship matches came at Trent Bridge where Nottinghamshire collapsed for 80 in pursuit of their target of 335. Sam Cook followed up his first-innings hat-trick with six wickets for 14. England’s former opener Haseeb Hameed was bowled by Cook without any footwork while the current opener Ben Duckett was beaten past his outside edge and bowled by Jamie Porter.

The one drawback for Essex was that their opening batsman Feroze Khushi was found to have used a bat of illegal width and the county faces a potential deduction of all 16 points for their victory.


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