Harry Brook’s journey to a County Championship debut with Yorkshire

harry brook Yorkshire academy

Harry Brook (pictured right with Yorkshire Academy) is having the kind of week where he must be pinching himself.

The eighteen year-old, who hails from Keighley, was recently awarded a full-time junior professional contract by Yorkshire County Cricket Club and is now in the midst of his Championship debut down at Lord’s.

Keeping an ear to the ground has flagged up the rich vein of form from a young batsman who has hit three hundreds in a fortnight for Yorkshire 2nd XI including 161 at North Marine Road.

If Harry is searching for omens, he might reference his match-winning knock of 112 in the 2nd XI Trophy Final – against Middlesex no less – though this latest examination down in London against the reigning County Champions will be as tough as it gets.

Specsavers County Championship

Yorkshire’s latest debutant in the Specsavers County Championship (after Ben Coad who is positively ancient at 23 but now has 31 wickets in Division One) is a further nod to both the talent pool and coaching expertise across the county.

For Brook, this explosion of form hasn’t come from nowhere.

He is highly rated enough to have represented England Under-19s in winter and in the cut and thrust of league cricket in 2017, there has been consistency.

For Yorkshire Academy in the ECB Premier League North, there has been 362 runs to date to go with an average of 72 from five matches including 178 against Woodhouse Grange.

Of course, Yorkshire County Cricket Club are not averse to giving teenagers a taste of top-flight cricket if they’re good enough – remember Barney Gibson at 15 against Durham MCCU?

dave cooper burley in wharfedale

Someone who knows Harry Brook very well is Dave Cooper (pictured left), Director of Cricket at Burley in Wharfedale Cricket Club.

Harry’s dad David was a top batsman at Burley and as we conduct this interview, Dave is looking at the Brook family house that sits overlooking the ground.

Harry’s uncles, Richard and Nick, were also stalwarts at Burley and his grandfather Tony was involved in the Aire-Wharfe League for decades with Green Lane and Burley.

Dave, an experienced coach for over 30 years, has seen Harry develop from the Burley under-nines to the first team.

At this point, Dave shouts: “Dive Dive!” and it takes a while to realise he is neither addressing me nor pretending to be a submarine captain but offering tips for a junior game against Keighley in progress.

For someone who’s seen Brook develop and break batting records along the way (including the Yorkshire Schools record for the most runs in a season that had held since 1979), it has been coming for some time.

harry brook burley under nines

“It’s no surprise at all. It’s been written that he was going to be a top player. I’ve got a picture of him in the under eight team with Sam Fox (now Yorkshire 2nd XI) and Matthew and Dan Revis (Yorkshire Under 15s). A crop of golden talent that appeared at the club as under nines.”

When a cricketer breaks through and makes his Yorkshire debut, inevitably those who are part of his or her journey are under the microscope and share in the prodigy’s success but as Cooper explains:

“Who’s been his biggest influence? It’s been himself. Just driven so much but in a nice way, not obsessive. Just quietly saying ‘this is what I want to do…this is what I need to achieve what I want.’ ”

While Harry Brook’s batting has flourished, those with designs on professional cricket need to drag all aspects of their game to the same level and according to Dave, he wasn’t always the most mobile of fielders but worked tirelessly in winter on fitness to enhance his speed and that graft has paid off.

Would the occasion at Lord’s get to him? There is undoubtedly pressure but he’s walked down the steps and through the Long Room as a batsman for England Schools and passed all the hurdles that have got Brook to this point so it’s unlikely to phase him.

Harry’s only first-class appearance was for Yorkshire against Pakistan where Mir Hamza cleaned him up for a golden duck in the drawn game at Headingley last June. However good you are, it only takes a ball and it’s all over.

That in itself is a lesson but equally, if you’re in nick that brings a mindset and a confidence.

For Brook, he can remind himself of the vast amount of runs he’s scored this season in all forms of cricket. He has eleven centuries in 2017 and is heading towards 1,800 runs before the end of June.

harry brook sedbergh school

As well as representing Yorkshire age groups, Brook has spent four years at Sedbergh School in Cumbria and developed there under the watchful eye of Martin Speight whose career included spells with Sussex, Durham and Wellington in New Zealand.

Speight had this to say last season for the school website which gives an idea of the momentum behind Brook:

“In the previous week Harry scored more than 500 runs for the Sedbergh 1st XI. He joined us in Year 10 at the age of 14 and throughout his time here he has shown total dedication.”

He went on to add: “He trains incredibly hard and only two months ago, in an article for a national magazine, I named him as one to watch. He’s the most mentally strong young batsman I’ve come across for a long time.”

Lord's

Fast forward to the current Lord’s fixture and on a track that has so far yielded a number of hundreds in the Specsavers County Championship game with Yorkshire, Brook will be backing himself to cash in and write his own headlines. But fairytales don’t always slot happily into the script.

Whatever transpires, we shouldn’t expect and judge this young man’s pedigree in scintillating triple digit scores alone. There will surely be tough days but he will be well looked after.

For Yorkshire fans, as well as everyone proudly watching back at Burley, Harry Brook is already another home-grown success story and we will all wish him well and watch his progress with interest.

Photo credits in order of appearance: Cricket Heritage blog, Burley in Wharfedale Cricket ClubSedbergh School (Amy Grace)

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