Harry Brook feels Test cricket is pinnacle as he prepares to fulfil Ashes dream

By Sports Desk June 14, 2023

England’s Harry Brook can appreciate the appeal of a lucrative life as a T20 specialist but insists nothing will ever compare to the feeling of living out his Ashes dreams.

On Friday, Brook will fulfil a lifelong ambition when he takes the field against Australia in the first Test, a goal he has chased since he first started hitting balls as an infant.

Brook’s love of the sport comes from his upbringing in a devoted cricketing family from Burley-in-Wharfedale and, although he recently banked a cool £1.3million for a two-month stint with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League, he is clear where he feels the real riches are.

“This is absolutely a childhood dream. My dad always says as soon as I could talk I said that I wanted to play for England and here we are,” said the 24-year-old after a lengthy net session at Edgbaston.

“My dad and my two uncles and my grandad all played at my local club. It all stemmed from there really.

“I was growing up watching the very best players from England and Australia facing each other. Obviously the 2005 Ashes was a big one.

“I can always remember the over (Andrew) Flintoff bowled to (Ricky) Ponting and KP (Kevin Pietersen) smacking it everywhere against Warne and McGrath, those boys.

“You can understand why people don’t want to play Test cricket because there’s so many franchise competitions out there and there’s so much money you can get.

“It’s like being a footballer – you don’t play for five days, you get three months at home – but for me Test cricket is the pinnacle. The best players play Test cricket and the best players perform in Test cricket.”

Brook went from emerging prospect to one of the hottest properties on the planet over the winter, named player of the series during a historic whitewash over Pakistan after reeling off a hat-trick of hundreds in Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi.

He followed with another in Mount Maunganui and, despite a disappointing IPL that saw one century among a string of low scores, the 24-year-old heads into his first meeting with Australia boasting a formidable record in the Test arena.

It is hard to say which is more eye-catching, his average of 81.80 or a strike-rate of 99.03, but combined they hint at a rare talent who is riding the crest of a wave.

Australia’s attack, by common consensus, represents a step up in intensity. So too the wider fanfare and scrutiny that comes with the Ashes platform.

But Brook retains a refreshingly unaffected view of his own role and is eager to throw himself into the challenge.

“The Australians might have a little bit of extra pace, but if they bowl quicker it tends to go to the boundary quicker,” he said with a grin.

“I’m just looking to play the ball and I’m not really bothered who’s bowling at me. It’s the same old ball coming down. Obviously, they’re good but it’s just another cricket ball coming at me.

“I’ve always wanted to play against the best players in the world and see how good I really am.”

His success as a stand-in for Jonny Bairstow forced England into a selection dilemma when the latter returned from a broken leg. In the end, Bairstow returned at the expense of wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.

Retaining the number five slot, the same position his fellow Yorkshireman had just enjoyed a career-best run of form prior to his injury, was a major show of faith in Brook and also a relief.

Some had advocated moving him up to the top of the order to accommodate Bairstow and Foakes, but his previous experiences at the head of the innings in county cricket left him wary about the prospect.

“There was obviously a lot of talk about me going up to opening the batting but thank God I’m not doing that. They never asked thankfully,” he said.

“Obviously it gives me a lot of confidence knowing I’m going to be batting five and they’ve backed me batting there.

“I feel like I’m more part of the team now, obviously as a deputy you don’t quite feel like you’re meant to be there if you know what I mean. So to have been contributing and gain a few match winning performances this winter has meant the world and I feel a big part of the team now.”

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