NASSER HUSSAIN: Harry Brook can relax knowing he’s here for a long time with England Test debut looming

NASSER HUSSAIN: Harry Brook can relax knowing he’s here for a long time… Jonny Bairstow’s misfortune allowed the Yorkshireman to start his Test career in the perfect position

  • An injury to Jonny Bairstow has opened up a place in England for Harry Brook
  • England’s selection process has improved exponentially over the past few decades
  • Brook can book his place in the English tour of Pakistan with a good performance

Harry Brook is a perfect fit for the bill to step into this England squad as they look to end the international summer with a series win against South Africa.

Brook has been unhappy throughout his prolific 2022 season because there have been people in those mid-scoring streaks. He had to wait his turn.

But Jonny Bairstow’s injury means he comes into this setup in exactly the right batting position to start a Test career.

Harry Brook has been named in the England squad for the final test against South Africa

There was talk of bringing him in to open at the start of the current series against South Africa, with Zak Crawley in the last chance saloon, but I wouldn’t have advocated that.

I believe the best place for him to start is at five, the place from which he put together a streak of 967 County Championship runs in just eight matches.

The offensive way he plays matches the style in which the regime of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum wants its players to practice their cricket.

If I had any advice for him, it would be to tell him that it’s not like the bad old days of England when I played.

Jonny Bairstow's freak injury means Brook could also feature in England's Test series against Pakistan in December

Jonny Bairstow’s freak injury means Brook could also feature in England’s Test series against Pakistan in December

This English outfit believe in long-term selection and don’t just go around in circles, which couldn’t be more the opposite of my time.

It was at the Oval that I received my first call up for the test in 1989. I was named in the squad, but did not make the XI, as John Stephenson was chosen ahead of me .

When I left the game and returned to Wantage Road to join my Essex team-mates for a game against Northamptonshire, my captain Keith Fletcher told me it was actually a blessing in disguise.

One-Test wonders end up at the Oval, he said. Stephenson ended up like that, like a few others, and it reflected the short-term thinking that existed in the 80s and 90s.

Today, things are very different. In fact, I would tell Brook that he is not only in the team this week, but also on the plane to Pakistan for the December Test series.

If he’s good enough for this game, he’s good enough for the next one in Rawalpindi too, so I would tell him to go play like he does for Yorkshire.

He’s not playing for his place, so allow him to relax and go out and try to win a test match for England.

The 23-year-old showed his potential for the England Lions against the Proteas last month

The 23-year-old showed his potential for the England Lions against the Proteas last month

And if he gets any points in a game of this magnitude, against this South Africa attack – after knocking out around 100 of their reserve bowlers in the England Lions’ warm-up victory over the tourists last month last – that will tell you that he is a very good player.

To be honest, I just hope he’s still in nick. As a hitter, you want to be picked when you’re at the top of your game and he probably would have preferred his first pick to have been a month ago when the runs were really rolling in.

Instead, it was fairly inactive as a top-six back-up option in the first two tests.

This didn’t allow him to keep up his red-ball hitting rhythm.

But even though he had to bide his time, Brook will know that with Bairstow out of the Pakistan tour – due to the nature of his leg injury – he will be in the squad for a little while. It should allow him to express himself in the manner of others in what has been a truly exciting resurgence for England in Test cricket.


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