WELLINGTON (AFP): Red-hot Harry Brook made a majestic 184 not out to put England firmly in control against New Zealand in the second Test in Wellington on Friday.
Joe Root was also unbeaten on a classy 101 as the tourists blazed their way to 315-3 before rain ended the opening day of the series decider early.
Brook’s breathtaking display at the Basin Reserve made him the first player to score 800 or more runs in his first nine Test innings.
The 24-year-old came to the crease with England wobbling at 21-3 inside the first seven overs.
It then became the Brook show as he took his Test average to just over 100 in only his sixth match. He has four tons already.
Brook rated his Wellington knock as the best of his fledgling Test career given England’s precarious situation when he came in to bat.
“We lost three early wickets, which isn’t ideal, but then I came out and tried to counter-punch a bit and be as positive as we could be. Thankfully it came off,” said Brook.
New Zealand won the toss and elected to bowl on a green wicket.
That decision paid instant reward as the hosts quickly tore through England’s top order of Zak Crawley (two), Ben Duckett (nine) and Ollie Pope (10).
Matt Henry and skipper Tim Southee did the early damage for the hosts under blue skies.
Henry, back after missing the first Test with the birth of his child, forced Crawley into being caught behind as the opener’s sticky run continued.
All-rounder Michael Bracewell then made two superb catches in the slips to first dismiss Pope, then Duckett.
The removal of Duckett following Bracewell’s diving catch gave Southee a 700th international wicket in all formats, becoming the first New Zealander to reach the milestone.
– The Brook Show –
Brook was player of the match in the first Test with back-to-back half-centuries to help England to a 267-run win.
He continued the remarkable start to his Test career with a magnificent unbeaten knock laced with 24 fours and five sixes. His 184 came off 169 balls.
Alongside former skipper Root, he helped steer England out of trouble to 101-3 at lunch.
Brook, in particular, and Root then put on a dazzling display of “Bazball” — the attacking cricket England are now renowned for under coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.
They put on 294 in an unbeaten partnership that left New Zealand with no answers.
“Having got off to that start — which wasn’t ideal — all we could do was bat the way we have done over the last couple of months and create a partnership,” said Brook.
“Over the years I have always enjoyed watching ‘Rooty’ play, but I probably enjoy batting with him as much as watching.
“Both being from Yorkshire, we have spent quite a lot of time together with a bit of banter.
“I feel like we both enjoyed ourselves out there. His defence was immaculate.”
There was no let-up as the afternoon wore on with Brook adding to his three previous centuries against Pakistan in December.
Root was more steady but no less decisive, slapping his 29th Test century but first in eight Tests.
In the end, only the rain could stop them.
“It’s a tough day of Test cricket,” said the bowler Henry.
“England batted very well, Joe Root and Harry Brook were excellent today and managed to put us under pressure.
“We have another chance tomorrow to bring it to them.”
England, who have won 10 of their last 11 Tests, stuck with the same team that convincingly won the opening game.
New Zealand made two changes with Will Young and Henry replacing Scott Kuggeleijn and Blair Tickner.
England 1st innings
Z. Crawley c Blundell b Henry 2
B. Duckett c Bracewell b Southee 9
O. Pope c Bracewell b Henry 10
J. Root not out 101
H. Brook not out 184
Extras (lb8, w1) 9
Total (3 wkts, 65 overs) 315
Fall of wickets: 1-5 (Crawley), 2-21 (Pope), 3-21 (Duckett)
Yet to bat: Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson
Bowling: Southee 17-5-48-1, Henry 15-2-64-2, Mitchell 9-1-61-0, Wagner 17-1-101-0, Bracewell 7-0-33-0
Toss: New Zealand
Umpires: Chris Gaffaney (NZL), Rod Tucker (AUS)
TV umpire: Aleem Dar (PAK)
Match referee: David Boon (AUS)