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England's Harry Brook fails to make most of World Cup lifeline

Harry Brook's hopes of a last-ditch Cricket World Cup reprieve have been dealt a blow after the England batter failed to catch the eye as he scored just 25 against New Zealand in Friday's first one-day international in Cardiff.

Brook had been expected to miss the World Cup after he was not named in the provisional 15-man squad for the trip to India but the Yorkshire star received a late call-up to the squad for the New Zealand series following a minor injury to Jonny Bairstow.

After Jason Roy was sidelined with back spasms on Thursday, Brook was selected to open the batting at Sophia Gardens. However, he failed to take full advantage as he was caught behind for 25 off the bowling of seamer Lockie Ferguson.

Selectors remain unconvinced despite red-hot Test start

A dashing batter who initially made a name for himself in short formats, Brook played for England throughout the youth ranks and first broke into the senior team in the T20 sphere in 2022 as he was named in the squad for the five-match series against the West Indies.

He has since made 22 T20I appearances, scoring 482 runs at an average of 32.13, including 43 not out and 67 in the first two matches of the recent New Zealand series. 

But, for all his white-ball prowess, Brook has been seen at his very best in the Test arena, where he has become a regular for Ben Stokes' team since making his debut against South Africa 12 months ago.

While Brook made just 12 runs on Test debut at the Oval, he caught fire on last winter's tour to Pakistan, firing 468 runs - including three centuries - at an average of 93.6 and becoming the living embodiment of England's aggressive Bazball rebirth.

He would continue to catch the eye against New Zealand over the winter, scoring 186 in the first innings of the second Test in Wellington, and he had a solid, if less spectacular, Ashes series in which he scored 363 runs at 40.33 with four half-centuries.

However, one-day caps have been few and far between due to both a lack of regular 50-over cricket on the schedule in recent months and also the sheer competition for places in the England squad.

Prior to the clash with New Zealand, Brook's ODI record was limited to three appearances in South Africa at the start of the year, during which he cracked a typically brisk 75-ball 80 in the second ODI in Bloemfontein. 

While that innings hinted at what Brook might be capable of, he was also out for a duck in the first match of that series and he scored just six runs in the final contest, which did not help his case for a place in the World Cup squad.

Stokes' return leaves Brook on the outside looking in

England white-ball coach Matthew Mott has insisted that the door remains open for Brook to force his way into the World Cup picture, but his hopes have been complicated by the return of Ben Stokes.

The England Test captain played a major role in the 2019 World Cup win and he announced his decision to come out of international retirement last month, adding further competition to England's middle-order ranks.

Stokes, who could play as a specialist batsman in India, is set to join skipper Jos Buttler and fellow batters Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Joe Root and Jason Roy in the World Cup squad.

Malan is arguably most likely to forfeit his place if Brook can force his way into the squad but the 36-year-old offered a timely reminder of his own talent as he struck a stylish 54 off 53 balls in the first ODI against the Black Caps.

Opportunities running out for Yorkshireman

Brook's opportunities over the final three ODIs against New Zealand will likely hinge on the fitness of others, with both Bairstow and Roy still in the squad as it stands, so he will be acutely aware that he needs to grasp any chance which comes his way.

England will meet New Zealand for the second ODI at the Rose Bowl on Sunday then the series wraps up with matches at the Oval on Wednesday and Lord's on Friday.

Brook has also been included in the squad for the three-match 50-over series against Ireland which starts at his home ground, Headingley, on Wednesday 20th September.

No member of England's provisional World Cup squad will feature against Ireland so Brook will treat that as one final chance to impress the selectors.

England are 3/1 to retain the World Cup, which begins when they take on New Zealand in Ahmedabad in another rerun of the dramatic 2019 final.

Hosts India head the market at 11/5 with Australia 9/2, Pakistan 13/2 and the Black Caps 15/2 to go one better.

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