England star Harry Brook back with a bang for Yorkshire CCC

ALL good things come to those who wait.

Those with tickets for Yorkshire’s opening County Championship match of the season would have thought with reasonable expectation that they would have seen Harry Brook with bat in hand well before 1.40pm on the fourth and final day.

Finally the weather played ball for long enough and Brook - playing his first competitive innings since December - took to the crease in watery sunshine, rewarding spectators’ patience with an unbeaten 100 from 69 balls with 14 fours and two sixes in the closing stages of a rain-affected draw.

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There were 178 spectators present, to be exact, to witness a performance of typical panache by Brook - who missed the recent Test series in India due to the death of his grandmother - and also by Adam Lyth, who struck 101 from 100 balls with 17 fours and two sixes, the pair sharing 128 for the fourth wicket.

Harry Brook celebrates his century at Headingley. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.ukHarry Brook celebrates his century at Headingley. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.uk
Harry Brook celebrates his century at Headingley. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.uk

The 25-year-old Brook made it look ridiculously straightforward at times, dishing out punishment to all of the bowlers including Rehan Ahmed, his England colleague, whom he clubbed for a brace of offside boundaries.

From the moment that Brook off-drove his second delivery from Matt Salisbury to the mid-off rope at the Kirkstall Lane end, he pulled, swatted, whipped and scooped his way firstly to a 35-ball half-century and then to a hundred celebrated with a leg-side single off Ben Mike, his former Yorkshire team-mate.

No sooner had Brook trotted through to complete the single than he removed his helmet and poignantly raised his head to the heavens; it is a location from which the cricketing gods have bestowed on him gifts that are given to precious few.

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No sooner, too, had Brook taken the applause of those 178 spectators - who made themselves sound like 1,178 - than Yorkshire declared at 264-6 in their first innings in reply to Leicestershire’s 354.

Adam Lyth, left, and Harry Brook shared a sparkling partnership. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.ukAdam Lyth, left, and Harry Brook shared a sparkling partnership. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.uk
Adam Lyth, left, and Harry Brook shared a sparkling partnership. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.uk

The reason for pulling out before 300 and a second batting bonus point was because rain and bad light were looming once more and because Yorkshire’s over-rate in the field stood at minus two, which would have resulted in a two-point penalty.

By using spinners Dan Moriarty and Lyth from the get-go, however, they managed to claw back the situation as Leicestershire reached 26-0 before the rain did return and hands were shaken.

Brook was not available to speak to the press but Ottis Gibson, the Yorkshire head coach, paid tribute to a man whose 12th first-class hundred complemented the evergreen Lyth’s 33rd.

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“Harry makes it look so easy, and having him in our batting line-up makes a huge difference” said Gibson. “We’ve put no pressure on him to play; we just told him to go at his own pace with regards to when he comes here, but he’s been coming in and having lots of nets with us.

Brook hits out. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.ukBrook hits out. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.uk
Brook hits out. Picture: Dave Williams cricketphotos.co.uk

“He’s been wanting to be around, at a time like this, people that he’s comfortable with and one of the conversations that we had he just said that he was looking forward to playing cricket with his mates again.

“He’s got lots of friends in the dressing room; they all grew up together playing through the age groups, and so on, and for him I guess it’s comfort in a difficult time.”

On a day when the 178 spectators took the combined match attendance to just 2,369, which would have represented an expected first day crowd at this ground not so long ago, Yorkshire resumed on 72-2, with Lyth on 43 and George Hill 13.

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Hill, who bowled well in the Leicestershire first innings, fell four balls into a theoretical 66 overs left in the contest, driving Salisbury to Marcus Harris at mid-off.

Lyth went to his fifty from 59 balls with 10 fours as he and Brook kept pace with each other, Lyth lofting Mike and Ahmed for leg-side sixes, and Brook launching Scott Currie for successive sixes in the same vicinity.

Lyth fell two balls after reaching three figures, carving Tom Scriven to Currie on the cover boundary, before Brook added 53 with Jonny Tattersall, who went leg-before trying to work Mike into the leg-side, Mike following up by trapping Jordan Thompson for a fifth-ball duck.

Yorkshire took 12 points from the game and Leicestershire 13, with Gibson clearly unhappy with the officiating. “If the ECB wants us to play cricket in the first week in April, they have to accept that conditions aren’t going to be perfect,” he said of time lost during the match. "I just feel like from the first day onwards, every day that we started at whatever time, it felt to me like we could have started a little bit earlier and could have got more cricket in.

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“That’s the frustrating part because everybody spends six months of a winter preparing, even the fans that come and sit in the stands; they’ve been waiting all winter to get the cricket season going again. I feel like we could have got more out of the four days in terms of the cricket that we did; that’s my opinion and everyone in our changing room.”

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