As Harry Brook walked out to bat at Old Trafford on Friday night, he received the kind of ovation that cannot have been experienced by too many of his fellow Yorkshiremen on excursions across the Pennines.
It followed Brook south, too, to Birmingham on Sunday, where he made only eight runs in England’s heavy defeat to New Zealand, but that is unlikely to quiet the noise when this four-match T20 series reaches its climax at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.
For those unfamiliar with the term, this is the region in which footballer Grealish found himself during Euro 2020: outside England’s first XI amid fierce competition for places and, as a result, suddenly the subject of redoubled public support from a groundswell consensus that had found crystal clarity in a previously muddy debate.
Each time the then Aston Villa star emerged for one of his impact substitute appearances, Wembley produced the kind of sound not heard since One Direction last toured. Gareth Southgate was wrong, they believed, and quite simply, Grealish had to play.
The difference in Brook’s case? That evidence is mounting to suggest the same confident assertion is actually true.
If the first two matches of this series showcased exactly why in terms of the 24-year-old’s own talent (scores of 43 not out and 67 in comprehensive wins), then Sunday’s defeat at Edgbaston was more about the struggles of one of those he could usurp.
Dawid Malan is by no means the only player in England’s World Cup squad who could make way for Brook, nor would Brook offer a like-for-like replacement for a player who can bat up the order. But, with Liam Livingstone docked as an all-rounder, Jason Roy out of the spotlight until the one-day series starts on Friday and the prospect of a seamer missing out another can of worms entirely, the conversation has, for now, centred on direct comparison between the two.
For Malan, the last two matches have not made it a flattering one. After a four-ball duck at Old Trafford, the 36-year-old marked his birthday with two from 11 balls in the powerplay here on Sunday which, chasing 203, is not quite what was required.
The specifics of that scenario might not translate to the World Cup (Malan’s 50-over record is excellent, where he has shown his ability to recover from slow starts), but they do give fresh fuel to a long-held reservation over his impact on the rest of the side.
Having seen their No3 chew precious deliveries, the rest of England’s line-up, almost without exception, holed out trying to clear the fence in the battle against a spiralling rate. For all Malan’s excellence in the calculated steering of chases, as on show in the First T20, he has the potential to sink them, too.
Speaking afterwards, assistant coach Marcus Trescothick conceded that the situation around England’s World Cup squad, which can be tweaked until late this month, is causing a degree of anxiety among those whose necks are feeling Brook’s breath.
“There’s no doubt, when there’s that element, that noise outside the changing room,” he said. “You just start to question sometimes, especially if you’re not playing so well. Of course you do.”
England on Sunday added quick Brydon Carse, after two impressive T20s, to their 50-over squad for the New Zealand series, and it would surely now be bizarre were Brook not kept on, too. As for whether he goes to India, and who might miss out if so, the debate rages on.