Harry Brook already seems destined for a long and brilliant career with the bat. What was not expected was that he could become England’s savior with the ball.
It was with something akin to desperation that Ben Stokes turned to Brook on the fourth day of this final Test after seeing England struggle like seldom during a year in which almost everything had gone well for them.
Kane Williamson had made his 26th Test century, and in the process became the leading run-scorer in New Zealand history. The Black Caps had reached 455 for five, Williamson adding 158 with Tom Blundell, to crush England and raise what seemed like valid questions about Stokes’ decision to enforce the follow-on.
So what happens? The England captain tossed the ball to his new superstar, the proud purveyor of what Joe Root calls ‘disgusting left-footed medium speed’, and Brook duly took the wicket of one of the best batsmen in the game to ignite a new Zealand. collapse.
Who writes Brook’s scripts? It doesn’t matter. This was a pivotal story for an England team that had been enduring their worst day of the winter and had seen New Zealand give themselves a chance to become just the fourth team in Test history to win after following on.
Harry Brook took Kane Williamson’s key wicket to cause New Zealand to collapse as England finished the fourth day of the second Test 48-1 after dismissing the hosts for 483.
Brook has only eight first-class wickets, but he dismissed the batsman Williamson with his medium pace
The Yorkshire star was harassed by his teammates after the exploit, leading to a five-wicket barrage.
Williamson had been the epitome of class and calm coming in on 132 for 282 balls as Brook, with eight first-class wickets to his name, stepped up for his third over, bowling his dibbly-dobbers at little more than pace. by Monty Panesar.
Williamson bowled a seemingly innocuous ball that went over the side of his leg; Ben Foakes took the ball on his feet with his usual ease; and Brook put down a half appeal of being caught from behind.
The wicket-keeper wasn’t convinced and, more importantly, umpire Rod Tucker wasn’t convinced either, but Joe Root, running from the middle of the wicket, was sure he heard a noise.
Almost at the last second, Stokes called for a review, and the technology detected the slightest touch. Cue gleeful celebrations of an incredulous England, Stokes shaking his head at the absurdity of it all, and Williamson trudging.
With him seemed to go New Zealand’s hopes as his tail quickly disappeared, Michael Bracewell starting in the most unfortunate but also careless fashion when he ended up picking up his foot as he sprinted comfortably into his crease.
The last four wickets fell by five runs as New Zealand were bowled out for 483, Jack Leach finished with a five-wicket haul to show off his 61.3 overs, and England faced a chase of 258 to win when just an hour earlier. it seemed that there would be many, many more.
They cut that by 48 runs at the end of the fourth day, but lost to Zak Crawley for perhaps the last time in Test cricket. Crawley had lived more than dangerously during a hectic sojourn in the fold, but just when it looked like he might live to fight another day, Tim Southee threw him through a rather large door.
England have always shown the most unwavering faith towards Crawley, but now, after 33 matches and averaging just 27, his career – and it has always been at a gallop – seems to run. He is clearly the obvious man to go for when Jonny Bairstow returns this summer.
Black Caps captain Williamson finished with 132 of 282 deliveries, with a masterful century
Kane Williamson had become New Zealand’s all-time leading run-scorer after spending 63
Spinner Jack Leach (right) then secured a five-wicket haul while cleaning up the home team’s tail.
No such worries for Brook, who was only bowling today because his captain couldn’t. And the sight of Stokes twice before in the grounds of Basin Reserve, first when he sprained his ankle on the lush grass and then when he fell on the ball and gasped, had been sobering for England.
Stokes recovered from both of those problems but was not fit enough to bowl due to the much more worrying issue with his left knee and whatever happened on the final day this was something of a reality check. for England.
Not so much because Stokes erred in asking New Zealand to bat again after they conceded a 226-run first-innings lead to England; the continuation was the attack option and totally in line with the philosophy of Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
But more, with this summer and the big one against Australia in mind, the age-old flat-toss problem of a one-beat seam attack and just an orthodox finger spin, albeit one in Leach that continues to justify the faith Stokes has placed. in it.
The lack of real pace and mysterious twist here has made it all the more important that Jofra Archer and Mark Wood are fit and ready for the Ashes and the visit to India early next year, while England must hope Rehan Ahmed continue to meet your huge leg. spin potential.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have done everything that could realistically be asked of them in this series, most notably by playing a major role in the victory at Mount Maunganui, but Stokes telling them and Ollie Robinson to come back here proved too much.
Wellington was where Broad and Anderson first teamed up 15 years ago and Basin Reserve is, arguably, where the most prolific partnership in history could be playing their last overseas Test together – with their next not coming until next January.
The sight of the pair bowling 51 overs here for just a solitary wicket (Broad had Daryl Mitchell miss at half 54) wasn’t exactly conducive to their continued longevity.
Night watchman OIlie Robinson (right) took the final pressure off as England finished 48-1, with Ben Duckett (left) scoring 23 for 29 and fellow opener Zak Crawley dismissed for 24 for 30
Ollie Robinson (second right) made a breakthrough off Henry Nicholls’ wicket in the morning
Stuart Broad then took out the dangerous Daryl Mitchell after he attempted to throw the pitcher.
It might have been different for a seam attack that CricViz analysts say produced New Zealand’s third-lowest average second-innings speed of any England line-up since ball tracking began in 2005, if the captain had been available to help. .
Stokes had bowled just two erratic overs on the third night and did not turn the arm once on the fourth day when England desperately needed one of their captain’s game-changing flurries of something, in fact anything, a little different.
This is the biggest indication yet that, for all his public insistence that there is nothing to worry about, the situation with Stokes’ knee is coming to a head.
It is not clear if an operation would solve the problem or, in fact, what the injury actually is.
It is said that Stokes doesn’t want to investigate him too thoroughly with scans in case he shows more damage than he is willing to accept, but he surely needs surgery or rest before the series in which ‘Bazball’ will finally be judged: the Ashes.
But he is scheduled to travel to India in March to fulfill a £1.6m contract with the Chennai Super Kings of the IPL and it would be a brave man to suggest he should give that up. Because of you, Rob Key?
After all, Stokes has a core contract and has certainly always put England first, but the world cricket landscape is changing like never before and managing director Key has hinted that he wants to work with England players in franchise opportunities instead of against them. He is the most delicate of situations.
For now, that can wait as England close in on their seventh straight win and 11th in 12 games under their dynamic duo of Stokes and McCullum. Thanks to an unlikely intervention from the boy genius who can’t be wrong.