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Ben Duckett: 'I've certainly had setbacks but they've made me who I am'

Notts batter eyeing England after righting some wrongs during last summer's T20 Blast triumph

George Dobell
George Dobell
Ben Duckett redeemed his 2019 near-miss by hitting the winning runs in the 2020 final  •  Getty Images

Ben Duckett redeemed his 2019 near-miss by hitting the winning runs in the 2020 final  •  Getty Images

Life doesn't always present second chances quite as neatly as it has for Ben Duckett.
A year after Duckett had, in his words, "messed up" at the key moment of the 2019 Vitality Blast semi-final against Worcestershire, he was back at Edgbaston again, though this time in the final. And this time, he hit consecutive boundaries to finish 53 not out and win Nottinghamshire the title with 16 balls to spare.
"I will remember that match against Worcestershire for the rest of my life," Duckett says now. "It was a big learning curve for me. "The whole game rested on me, and 99 times out of 100, I'd get the team over the line there. But I messed up in that last moment. I could have been the hero, but I missed that last ball and yeah, it was a bit of a shock. I made one mistake and it costs us the competition.
"But when I look back on it, we - as a team - messed up the game long before that. We should never have been in the situation where it went to the last ball. I think we needed 11 from the final two overs. But we lost three wickets in the penultimate over through some brainless cricket.
"Everyone had my back. Until that moment I'd actually played a decent innings and I think we understood that it was a learning moment for us as a team. I knew afterwards that, if I had my time again, I would have taken a risk in that second last over and tried to kill the game.
"I've certainly had setbacks in my career. That was one of them. They've made who I am.
"A great example is Ben Stokes. Look what happened to him in the final of the World T20 in 2016? Like me, he wants to be there in the big moments. And if you are there in those pressure moments, sometimes you won't get it right. But he bounced back from that and won England the World Cup final a few years later.
"Thankfully, 12 months after that Worcestershire game, I had another chance and I got us over the line."
Duckett and co. will have another chance to "get over the line' when their Vitality Blast campaign starts on Wednesday with a televised fixture away against Worcestershire. They have lost their captain, Dan Christian, Pakistan allrounder Imad Wasim and Chris Nash, the top-order batter, from the team that won last year. But with Alex Hales and Joe Clarke joining Duckett in an eye catching top-order, they are quietly optimistic they could become the first side to win the title for two years in succession.
"It's such a tough competition to win," he says. "We have 11 games in 20 days, I think. So it's really important we focus and start again. If we think we're going to breeze through because we won last year, we'll be in trouble.
"Joe is a quality player. Some players - me, for example - don't change their game that much between T20 and Championship cricket. We tinker, but it's pretty much the same. But with Joe, I've seen him bat for 150 balls in a Championship game one week and make 70 off 25 balls in the Blast the next. It's scary how good at striking the ball he is. And Hales, at the other end, he's not too bad, either. With those guys at the top of the order, we look dangerous, don't we?"
Could there be a second chance for Duckett in international cricket, too? It could easily be forgotten that he has played all three formats of international cricket but never in England (he played his only T20I in Wales). He's only 26 and, in 2020, averaged 56.28 in the County Championship and 42.50 (at a strike rate of 137.65) in the Vitality Blast. There's a lot to like.
"I'd love to play an international game in England in front of the crowd," he says. "I'm pretty sure it was about four o'clock in the morning when I played. Some people don't even know I played international cricket.
"My issue was my front leg used to go straight down or outside leg stump as I used to hit through the off side. But if you show your stumps to someone as good as Ashwin… well, it's easy for him."
Duckett struggled in his only Test winter to date
"It [India and Bangladesh] was an extremely tough place to go. If I went back to India now, I know that I would do a lot better.
"I obviously had a technical issue against offspin. I kept getting out to balls that pitched on middle and hit the top of off stump. Funnily enough, I see county players doing the exact same thing now. I mean look at the lads who went to India last winter: they're clearly gun players and they really struggled.
"My issue was my front leg used to go straight down or outside leg stump as I used to hit through the off side. And I could get away with that in England because there is, basically, no spin. But if you show your stumps to someone as good as Ashwin… well, it's easy for him.
"I had to work really, really hard on that. It took me a couple of years. But I made a good hundred against Jeetan Patel a couple of years ago and just the other day, I scored one off about 30 balls against Simon Harmer. I was happy with that as I really trusted my defence and it worked."
"My aspirations certainly aren't over. But I don't know which format I would return in. I still love playing four-day cricket - there's no better feeling than scoring a Championship hundred - and it may be there are more options for me in Test cricket than the limited-overs teams. They look really tough to break into. But there's another World Cup in a couple of years. Who knows?
"Right now, my focus is on playing for one of the better sides in the country, enjoying my cricket and putting in some performances to help Notts win another trophy this year."
With the opening two matches of the 2021 Vitality Blast at Trent Bridge sold out at reduced capacity, tickets are currently on sale for the subsequent five fixtures and are available online at All home games which aren't live on Sky will be streamed at

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo