Gilbert Jessop’s record for the fastest Test hundred by an Englishman – 76 balls – remains intact but it was twice in jeopardy in Rawalpindi last week as Harry Brook rapidly racked up runs.
Brook eventually fell short of Jessop’s achievement, which had been set against Australia at The Oval in 1902, with his hundred in England’s first innings against Pakistan reached from 80 balls and the Yorkshireman then bowled for 87 from 65 deliveries in the second during his team’s 74-run win in the series opener.
So, was Brook, who was playing just his second Test, targeting the record at any time?
“I was going for it second innings!” the 23-year-old told Michael Atherton ahead of Friday’s second Test in Multan, live on Sky Sports Cricket (4.30am on air ahead of the first ball at 5am).
“I didn’t know the record was that long ago. I thought Jonny (Bairstow) held the record [Bairstow scored a 77-ball century against New Zealand at Trent Bridge earlier this year].”
Brook did leave Rawalpindi with the record for the most runs by an England batter in an over in Test cricket after smoking Pakistan spinner Zahid Mahmood for 27 on day two as he took his score from its overnight 101 off 81 balls to 153 off 116.
He was on course to nail six boundaries in an over for the second time in the game, having clubbed six fours off Saud Shakeel on day one, but, to use his word, “hacked” the final ball for three.
‘It feels like you can go out and do whatever you want’
It was a record-breaking Test for England with feats including becoming the first side to plunder 500 on the opening day and the first to have four centurions on day one, with Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope each reaching three figures.
Their run-rate across the Test was also unprecedented (6.50 in the first innings, 7.36 in the second) as they piled on 921 runs in 136.5 overs – 657 from 101 in their opening dig and then 264-7 declared from 35.5 in their second.
“It feels like you can go out and do whatever you want. If I want to reverse sweep first ball, I have licence almost. You feel like you can do anything,” said Brook after England’s aggressive cricket under skipper Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum yielded a seventh win in eight Tests.
“The captain is leading from the front. His first innings was unbelievable. He only got 41 but he scored at a strike-rate of 227. If we didn’t bat like we did in that first innings, we would have had no chance of winning the game.
“How the boys have taken things on has been exceptional. To have the confidence from everyone around you in the changing room, the coach especially, makes it so much easier.”
Brook was part of England’s T20 World Cup-winning squad in Australia last month and is now featuring – and firing – at No 5 in the Test side in place of Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow, who broke his leg on a golf course in September.
“I haven’t got many words, to be honest. It’s been an exceptional month and one I will look back on forever, probably the highlight for the rest of my career and life,” added Brook.
“I didn’t think it would go as smoothly as it has and that in my first year for England I would be a World Cup champion but I have always had the inner confidence that I would play for England.
“Playing with and against the best players in the world, you are learning constantly whether that’s a good day or a bad day. Usually on your bad days you learn quite a bit more. Playing with Stokesy [Ben Stokes], Rooty [Joe Root], and Jos [Buttler] in the white-ball stuff, you can only go up.”
‘Test cricket is the best format’
Brook will hope to be snapped up for the 2023 Indian Premier League during December’s auction and then press for a spot in England’s squad for their 50-over World Cup title defence in India in October and November, but Test cricket remains his “pinnacle”.
Some players, like Somerset’s Will Smeed, have parked their red-ball careers, but Brook will not be following suit.
He said: “I think in the future we are going to see more people at a younger age sack off red-ball cricket – I reckon there are going to be a lot of white-ball contracts soon. I am probably not going to be one of them. I still think Test cricket is the best format.
“There is so much hype around T20 and so many leagues that you could quite easily, if you are good enough, get rid of red-ball and play every league in the world.
“You can understand why people do it, there is so much money, but I enjoy all formats. I still think Test cricket is the pinnacle and I am still striving to play it as long as possible.
“That win last week was unbelievable. There is no better feeling in cricket. You have grafted for five days and it doesn’t feel like you are going to win until you are there.
“It didn’t feel like five days, it felt like three weeks. It felt like we were in the field forever! To play on that pitch and get over the line in the last few overs was phenomenal. The captaincy from Stokesy was the best I have ever seen, it was unbelievable.”
After the run-fest in Rawalpindi, comes the second Test in Multan – and, perhaps, another chance for Brook to hit England’s fastest Test ton. He’s coming for you, Gilbert…
Watch day one of the second Test between Pakistan and England, in Multan, live on Sky Sports Cricket from Friday. Build-up gets under way at 4.30am ahead of a 5am start.