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'I certainly feel ready now' - Duckett hungry for more, in all conditions, after impressive Test return

England Test opener says he had been liberated by the team's changed mindset under Stokes and McCullum

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Ben Duckett made a 40-ball half-century, Pakistan vs England, 2nd Test, Multan, 1st day, December 9, 2022

Ben Duckett took England to the target in Karachi with an unbeaten 82  •  Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Ben Duckett iced his return to Test cricket by hitting the winning runs for England to complete a 3-0 series sweep in Pakistan, and then insisted he was not just a subcontinent specialist and could succeed as an opening batter in all conditions.
Duckett had a brief taste of Test cricket in 2016, winning four caps in Bangladesh and India, but was swiftly dropped after struggling against R Ashwin and has spent the last six years out of the England set-up in red-ball cricket. His return to the side for the tour to Pakistan was seen primarily as a horses-for-courses pick, but he has formed an impressive opening partnership with Zak Crawley at the top of the order. He now looks certain to open in England's next Test series, against New Zealand in February.
Duckett finished 82 not out on the fourth morning to finish the tour with 357 runs, overtaking Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel's tallies in the process, to become the second-highest run-scorer in the series. He made a hundred and three fifties, averaged 71.40, and scored at a remarkable strike rate of 95.71.
"I believed I could get runs out here and in these conditions," Duckett said. "I just said to Stokesy [Ben Stokes], we believed we could win out here but to go out and win 3-0 is pretty incredible. It will take some time to reflect on how amazing that achievement is.
"If I'm being really critical, I actually believe I've left runs out there in this series. If you had offered me that at the start, I would have snapped your hand off for it. Last game, getting 60 and 70, in my eyes, I threw away two hundreds. I felt like every time I tried to block it I didn't feel too good, so I should just keep sweeping every ball.
"I'm just delighted. At the top of the order, when I do get runs, I want to put us in a position to win and I'm very happy I have been able to do that."
England's next Test is a pink-ball, day-night match in Mount Maunganui starting February 16, in conditions that will present a starkly different challenge to those in Pakistan. But Duckett insisted he could succeed in New Zealand, too, saying, "I won't go on the flight if I don't think I can. If I'm there, I will give it my best."
"I know it's going to be extremely tough at the top of the order but I think the backing of this team and the way that they go about it is you're not going to get two Tests and get dropped"
Ben Duckett
Stuart Broad, his Nottinghamshire team-mate, watched the series from the Sky Sports studio while on paternity leave and said he would have "no doubts and no nerves" watching Duckett open for England in New Zealand or at home.
"I don't think he was just picked on it being a tour to the subcontinent and him playing spin," Broad said. "I've played with him at Nottinghamshire for three or four years now and he is a fine all-round player. He can whack seam bowling. He hits it in slightly different areas and he certainly knows his strengths.
"He's done some amazing work with Peter Moores at Nottinghamshire and the whole backroom staff there, and he's developed into a player that is 100% ready to attack Test match cricket and grab his chance again."
During the second Test in Multan, Duckett raised some eyebrows when he gave an interview to Sky Sports suggesting that Abrar Ahmed, who had taken 7 for 114 on debut, had "no real mystery" and that England had no issues picking his googly. Asked about those comments after the third Test, he underlined his view that Abrar's tally [17 wickets in two Tests] was offset by his economy rate (4.73), which demonstrated England's attacking intent.
"He's a good bowler," Duckett said. "Obviously [they have been] spinning pitches and he does spin it both ways. We probably gifted him some wickets in that first innings and we hadn't seen too much of him.
"But the rate we scored against him throughout the series, I think we'd take that. He was always going to take wickets on that pitch but rather than 5 for 30, it was 5 for 100 or whatever. The mindset that this team started from last summer, it's really easy to come into because you've got the full backing to go out there and play your way."
Duckett was England's fastest-scoring batter in the series [among those with 100-plus runs], and said that he had been liberated by the team's mindset under Stokes and Brendon McCullum. "The one game in Bangladesh six years ago when I got 60 [56] is exactly how I played in this," he said. "Looking back, I wish I had done it every game but back then it wasn't really the way to play Test cricket, let's say.
"Right now, I don't think Stokesy cares what you do to get runs - whether that's scooping [Tim] Southee in New Zealand. For me, that mindset allows me to score runs and makes me my best. If I'm looking to survive then, to be honest, I'm pretty useless. My way of surviving is to put the bowlers under pressure and look to score.
"I didn't feel ready when I was younger. I certainly feel ready now. I know my game. I know it's going to be extremely tough at the top of the order but I think the backing of this team and the way that they go about it is you're not going to get two Tests and get dropped. They're going to back me, I think, and hopefully I can get some scores. When I do get scores, hopefully they get us in winning positions."
Stokes, who put on an unbroken partnership of 73 with Duckett for the third wicket in Karachi, threw his support behind England's openers. "A seamer can bowl one length to Zak and [the same] length to Ben," he said. "Ducky will pull it or cut it, and Creepy will try and smack it through the covers or through midwicket.
"I just think the two of them at the top of the order just complement each other really, really well. They've been a huge catalyst in terms of the way we've gone about it with the bat. They've set the benchmark every innings and they set the benchmark last night as well."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98