Harry Brook smashed perhaps his best hundred yet, while Joe Root showed his class as England reached 315-3 after being put into bat on day one in Wellington.
The pair shared an unbeaten 294-run stand, having come together in the seventh over with England teetering at 21-3. Brook continued his stunning start to life as a Test cricketer with a dominant 184 off just 169 balls, while Root was much more patient as he struck his first Test hundred since the victory over India last July.
Brook was able to wrestle the momentum back from New Zealand, needing only 107 deliveries to reach a fourth century in just his sixth Test, matching the legendary Sir Don Bradman. His range of stroke play, power and timing was on show throughout his innings, which was particularly impressive given the match situation when he arrived at the crease.
“Brook is in that bubble and he has been for a while, it must be his best hundred,” was the verdict of former England captain Sir Alastair Cook. “I didn’t see all of his innings in Pakistan but the conditions he started that innings in today…
“He had some luck at the beginning, a couple of inside-edges past the stumps. But some of these shots you can only dream of and the confidence to play them and the skill to be able to consistently hit cleanly in the right areas – it’s been an absolute pleasure to sit here and watch a Harry Brook masterclass.”
While Brook has slotted into England’s new positive and aggressive mindset with ease, Root admitted ahead of this Test that he had “maybe got a bit caught up in it”. “I’m just trying to find out what my role is within this team,” he explained.
“It sounds silly having the experience I have, but you want to be involved and want to be a part of it. In the recent past it’s a case of … the rhythms of the game, I’ve maybe got a bit caught up in it. But I’m not too far away from what’s given me success.”
And, having been on his longest run without a Test century in over two years, Root certainly found that success in Wellington as he struck a 29th Test ton. Able to sit back and watch Brook take charge at the other end, Root found his rhythm as he scored just seven boundaries and pinched most of his runs by rotating the strike.
He ended up reaching three figures off the final ball of the day, with rain cutting proceedings short with him 101 not out. Earlier in the day, Tim Southee and the returning Matt Henry made early inroads for the hosts.
Having won the toss and opted to bowl first in conditions that England skipper Ben Stokes said had his bowlers “licking their lips”, Southee and Henry left the visitors reeling with three early breakthroughs.
Zak Crawley was the first to go, nicking off to Henry for just two in a manner which will only intensify the question marks surrounding his England future. Henry also removed Ollie Pope for ten, getting him caught at slip, before Southee repeated the trick to dismiss Duckett for nine, with Michael Bracewell taking a brilliant one-handed catch.
However, Root and Brook promptly settled any England nerves with their brilliant partnership to leave Stokes’ men firmly in control heading into day two.