You must have heard how good Harry Brook is. The English bowlers have been talking about it all tour, “one of the most talented people I’ve encountered,” said Luke Wood, “a very special player,” said Moeen Ali. And if you’ve seen England beat Pakistan by 63 runs on Friday night, you’ve seen it. Brook made 81 from 35 balls, but it wasn’t the speed with which he scored that was as impressive as the style with which he did it. It was one of the most artful innings ever played for England in a T20. Just don’t ask him to explain it. “I look at the ball and hit it, it’s that simple.”
Brook and Ben Duckett, who has batted so well himself in the last two games, came in at 141. That gave England 221, the highest total ever made in an international in Pakistan, and 13 runs more than anything the home side has ever chased .
However, the biggest difference between this match and the game England lost by 10 wickets on Thursday was the bowling. Mark Wood, who has slowly worked his way back to full fitness, showed he had finally gotten there by bowling one of the fastest spells in history, peaking at 97.5mph on the speed gun.
Wood, back on a team in England for the first time since the test tour of the West Indies last March, replaced another Wood, Luke and Reece Topley replaced David Willey. Together they managed to do in two overs what six bowlers had not done between them the previous night in 20, and both Babar Azam, who was caught by Wood’s third man, and Mohammad Rizwan, who was bowled by Topley while trying to cut a ball that was too close to him. Wood also caught Haider Ali at short midwicket.
That meant Pakistan was 21 for three and the match was pretty much over the bar with some lecherous blows from Shan Masood, who made 65 out of 40.
England were 82 to three when Brook came in. Their debutant Will Jacks, who replaced Alex Hales at the top of the ranking, had made 40. Aside from him and Duckett, who made a nice 70 out of 42, Brook looked a little different. He has all the strength he needs and pulled a pair of his sixes into the metal gate twenty yards beyond the boundary rope, but marries it with meticulous positioning. He scored with scoops, sweeps, drives, cans, pulls and even hooks, and at least one unnamed shot.
At one point he was able to drive Shahnawaz Dhanani across the ground for a six that went over the top of the non attacker’s middle stump, and on the next ball, a wide yorker, he played a delicate late cut for four that were better. both a short and deep third man. Haris Rauf hit him with a bouncer, which somehow rattled into the grille of his helmet, without really making contact with his face. It was a blessed evening for him, the first of many, you think.