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‘Extraordinary’ Duckett sweeps ‘panicked’ India into submission

“It was out of this world. The amount of skill you need to play those sweeps… it has been extraordinary.”

Those are the words of former England opener Sir Alastair Cook as he reflected on the scintillating unbeaten century scored by one of the current incumbents, Ben Duckett, against India in Rajkot.

Cook – England’s leading Test run-scorer of all time with 12,472 in 161 matches – had extraordinary qualities of his own: longevity, endurance, patience and no little ability.

But you would not have found him sweeping and reverse sweeping as frequently as Duckett did on day two of the third Test, en route to an 88-ball hundred and beyond, which propelled his team to 207-2 in just 35 overs at a run rate of 5.91. Proper Bazball.

Cook and Duckett may bat in the same position but they are very different players. Cook was a pillar in a past England batting line-up, Duckett a punisher in the current one.

Duckett ended Friday’s play 133 not out from 118 balls with a strike-rate of 112.71. He struck 21 fours and two sixes.

He scored the fastest Test hundred by an Englishman in India and second quickest by an England opener anywhere, behind only Zak Crawley’s 86-ball effort against Pakistan in 2022.

Duckett, like so many players before him in this swashbuckling batting unit under captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, threatened to challenge Gilbert Jessop’s record 76-ball England century, scored against Australia at The Oval in 1902.

He ultimately fell short – but punished India when they did likewise. Anything back of a length was cut and pulled to the fence, anything full was swept, reverse swept and occasionally driven there.

Duckett is a phenomenal talent so credit to him, he’s made a wonderful hundred. I wanted to clap, but the hardcore competitor in me didn’t allow me to clap, but I’m very happy for Ben. A couple of his shots, the slog sweeps were really, really special.

Ravichandran Ashwin on Ben Duckett

Cook: Duckett battered India into submission

Duckett manipulated the field – when India moved someone, the ball invariably went to an area that had just been deserted – and, according to Cook, his fellow left-hander made India “panic a bit with the confrontational nature of Bazball.”

“Duckett has battered India into submission,” Cook noted while analysing for TNT Sports.

He has made this great India bowling line-up not know where to go. He has made a guy with 500 Test wickets [Ravichandran Ashwin] not know where to bowl.”

Duckett has always brought intent since his second coming as a Test cricketer began in December 2022.

In his comeback knock against Pakistan in Rawalpindi – six years after his previous one in November 2016 – he scored 107 from 110 deliveries in a stand of 233 with Crawley inside 36 overs as England became the first side to score 500 on the first day of a Test.

England's Ben Duckett after his century in Rajkot (Getty Images)
Image: Duckett reached his fifty from 39 balls and his century from 88

His strike-rate was 95.48 from three Tests in 2022, 83.69 from eight in 2023 and now, after his rollicking ton in Rajkot, his strike-rate in 2024 stands at 104.34 from three games.

Perhaps having taken inspiration from the way team-mate Ollie Pope swept and reverse swept his way to 196 in the series opener at Hyderabad, Duckett unfurled similar shots in the third Test, making spinners Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav look ordinary.

It was a far cry from his first stint in England whites back in 2016, which also came on the subcontinent, first in Bangladesh and then India, as he averaged 15.71.

‘Nightmare’ Duckett showed bravery and skill

Duckett passed 15 just once in seven innings against those two countries, and was dismissed three times in a row by Ashwin in India for scores of 13, five and nought.

Back then he looked timid, something you cannot accuse him of now. Like a dying tree, he does not really do leaves.

England's Ben Duckett (Associated Press)
Image: How big will Duckett go on day three of the third Test?

“He’s a nightmare to bowl at in the nets, we try to get him to leave one but he never leaves any,” England seamer Mark Wood, who bagged four wickets in India’s 445 all out, said of Duckett.

“It’s been hot, he’s spent all that time in the field, so mentally to have that capability to go out there and play with the freedom and clarity of mind to play those shots and pick the right ball and still be there at the end… I’m delighted for him. It showed real bravery and skill.”

Cook added: “Duckett has got an opportunity to make a monster. If England bat the next day, they’ll be close to 800.

“They won’t get 800, but they’ll probably get 500 in the day – and that’s the whole message I’d probably be telling them: ‘If we bat properly again, we are well and truly on top in this game’.

“I’m going to go for it. Tomorrow is the day England bat all day.”

Follow over-by-over text commentary from day three of the third Test between India and England live on skysports.com and the Sky Sports App from 3.45am on Saturday (first ball at 4am).

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