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Duckett dusts himself down after torrid Test baptism

Ben Duckett impressed against Bangladesh but struggled in India AFP

Ben Duckett heads for Sri Lanka with England Lions determined to put his torment against R Ashwin behind him and remain in contention for England's Champions Trophy squad.

Duckett firstly wants to make an impact in the Pakistan Super League before joining the Lions for five one-day matches against Sri Lanka A in early March, which he hopes will show that he has benefited from being put through the mill by Ashwin, the India spinner who is ranked at No. 1 in both the ICC Test bowling and allrounder rankings.

After a promising introductory tour of Bangladesh, Duckett went to India as an exciting gamble at the top of England's batting order, but was dispensed with after two Tests and then excluded from the one-day series as Jonny Bairstow and Sam Billings put themselves ahead of him in the list of batsmen still eager to force their way into England's Champions Trophy squad.

Duckett's plight was summed up in the second Test in Visakhapatnam when he suppressed his aggressive instincts in a bid to follow orders and block out the final day, but made a 16-ball duck which ended with a misconceived sweep.

Duckett spent the latter part of the India Test series working on his batting method with England's batting coach Mark Ramprakash and he makes no secret of the fact that Ashwin exposed his technical frailties as he dismissed him in all three innings he faced.

"Obviously there are technical issues," Duckett said as the Lions finalised preparations at the national performance centre at Loughborough. "I went out there as a good player of spin - that's what people were saying - and coming back, I've been told I've got plenty to work on.

"I hadn't faced world-class spinners in those conditions. I can learn all there is to learn in India. But I'm used to playing in England - it's not going to pitch outside leg and hit the top of off stump in England. I definitely think, in a strange way, I've come back from it as a better player of spin."

Ashwin dismissed Duckett cheaply in all three innings, leaving him increasingly perplexed as how he could score off him and aware of the media scrutiny on a technique that often left the left-hander's stumps dangerously exposed.

"During the series, it's extremely tough to play around with it when you realise you've got a problem - the way I got out, with my front leg going outside leg and showing my stumps and the ball pitching outside leg and hitting the top of off.

"I've never had that experience before in a series, needing to find a way to score runs. That was extremely tough. But the best thing at the time was that, when I actually did get dropped, it took a bit of pressure off me and I could go and work with Ramprakash in the nets and play around with a few things.

"I've also got to remember I've faced one of the best spinners in the world in his conditions, and he was the one that got me out a few times. I didn't get out to any of the other bowlers - I didn't face many of them too much. The balls he bowled me were fairly good balls - it wasn't like I was getting caught at cover or mid-off."

Ashwin took 28 wickets in five Tests against England as India took the series 4-0, two ahead of his team-mate Ravi Jadeja and five ahead of Adil Rashid; in a series dominated by spin bowling, no-one else took more than 10.

After a few weeks' holiday, Duckett can now relive the experience without his eyes glazing over. "He changes his pace very well, turns the ball… and the difference with him is he's got so many variations, and he doesn't really bowl too many bad balls.

"He'll bowl you the same ball three times, and one will rag, one will turn a tiny bit and one will skid on. I know, if I go back out there and face him in those conditions, my footwork has got to be perfect."

Duckett was loath to imply criticism of the instructions from Alastair Cook, England's captain, that they should seek to block out the final day. "When the England captain asks for a group to do something, and everyone buys into it, you do it really," he said.

Even Cook would be the first to admit that such an approach would rest less easily with Duckett than the rest of England's top order, with Cook himself, Haseeb Hameed and Joe Root all better versed in the art of passive resistance.

"Cookie spoke to us - 'we're going to try to bat all day here, whether it's 20 runs off 160 balls'. That isn't my game, but I did try to do what we were asked. On another day, my way of batting for the draw is actually trying to get 120 off 160. I think if anyone is going to be successful against spin, you've got to be positive - especially out there.

"Even the likes of Haseeb - he likes to bat all day, but he found you can't just block against world-class spinners. You've got to find ways to put them under pressure - not necessarily running down and hitting, but sweep, use your feet and manoeuvre it and get off strike."

But I ended up trying to sweep one which wasn't there for the shot - a different mindset to normally. On another day, I might commit to that and nail it."

Cook's caring captaincy was again to the fore after Duckett was excluded. He was besieged by assessments about his technique - a world apart from a quiet day in Northampton - and with England largely confined to their rooms for security reasons, he found it hard to relax.

"You go on your phone and your name's there, and you almost think 'I'm getting dropped' before you even are. It is easy to go 'Hang on, I'm a rubbish player of spin'. If people are talking about it, then you sometimes believe it.

"Cookie asked me when I actually got dropped: 'What can we do to prepare someone like you that's coming in again [to international cricket]?

"I said: 'Well, I don't really think you can' - because county cricket, the pressure of that, is nothing like when you're playing for England."

Duckett has ample opportunities to rebuild his England case before the Champions Trophy. As well as the Pakistan Super League, and the Lions trip, he is in the North squad to meet the South over three 50-over fixtures in the UAE in March.

If any England players in the IPL are given licence to miss the two ODIs against Ireland in May - and that debate is ongoing - then Duckett might also be in contention for those. After all, his first three ODIs for England in Bangladesh in October were deemed a success. Then came India, Ashwin and a wholly different ball game.