Harry Brook helped England put on a show for New Zealand captain Tim Southee on the first of two warm-up days in Hamilton, smashing 97 as the runs flowed at Seddon Park.
Black Caps skipper Southee arrived for a scouting mission ahead of next week’s first Test and saw the tourists rack up 465 all out in just 69.2 overs against a local XI, scoring at a formidable rate of more than one-a-ball as their bold approach to the longest format continued to provide plenty of thrills and spills.
Southee and England’s Kiwi head coach Brendon McCullum were team-mates for years and the pair happily removed any battle lines as they chatted at length throughout the second session, joined by Ben Stokes.
There is no injury concern over Stokes, who preferred a long net session alongside Durham colleague Matthew Potts before play, and his voluntary absence was instead another reminder of England’s relaxed approach to accepted norms.
Brook, who scored three centuries in as many Tests during the whitewash over Pakistan before Christmas, was in electric form as he lashed the bowling to all parts of Seddon Park on the first of two days of warm-up action.
“I think I’ve got a little bit stronger and I feel like I’m hitting the ball a bit harder,” Brook said of his exploits.
“Whether that’s just because I’ve been given the freedom to go out and play in a positive way, take the match on, or whether I’ve actually got stronger, I just feel like I’m hitting the ball a lot harder than I was before.
“You feel like you can go out and almost do anything in this setup, it’s really fun playing under these guys.”
Brook’s rise to prominence
It’s been rapid and rousing! While 12 months ago he was a novice at international level, well known at Headingley but an unknown quantity beyond, he has since carved out a place in all three formats with England, become a T20 world champion and will be a marked man in the IPL given his hefty price tag.
Rookie leg-spinner Adi Ashok bore the brunt of England’s attacking approach, pounded for five consecutive sixes in an over after Brook blocked the first delivery.
The first of those maximums not only cleared the boundary rope, it also soared straight over an ambulance, beyond a security fence and on to the main road out of the ground.
Brook also showed his class against a proven international performer, lacing a flat pull for six more off Kyle Jamieson, the 6ft 8in Black Caps seamer who is set to feature in the Test series later this month.
The Yorkshireman’s innings ended in fitting fashion after 71 balls, aiming an uppercut at Jarrod McKay and being caught on the ropes at deep third. A few more inches on the shot and it would have been a tenth six and another hundred.
Joe Root had earlier made a thoroughly accomplished 77 while Dan Lawrence, who looks set to carry the drinks in the series proper, thrashed a lively 85 and Ben Foakes added 57, getting some time at the crease under the lights, but when England lost their 10th wicket with another 20 overs still scheduled they called an early end to proceedings rather than unleash their bowlers in the twilight.
Zak Crawley (17), Ben Duckett (32) and Pope (26) all failed to kick on after getting starts.
If Southee was hoping to spot any weaknesses in the English line-up, there was little to gain from watching Brook, who did not even clock his presence.
“I didn’t know he was here to be honest,” he admitted.
“It would have been a good little insight for him to come and watch because he probably hasn’t seen much of a few players. I’m sure he’ll have his plans but when we get to the Test series I’ll try to counter act them as much as I can.”
England’s two-Test series against New Zealand begins on Thursday February 16 with a day-night pink ball Test in Mount Maunganui before the second Test in Wellington, starting from 10pm GMT on Thursday February 23.
This post is originally appeared on Sky News