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regular-article-logo Friday, 12 July 2024

India vs England, 3rd Test Day 2: Ben Duckett’s counterpunch throws contest open

India skipper Rohit Sharma perhaps delayed a little bit in bringing Ashwin and Jadeja into the attack, and by that time Duckett had already got into his groove

Sayak Banerjee Rajkot Published 17.02.24, 09:03 AM
fast ton: England opener Ben Duckett celebrates after completing his century during his unbeaten innings of 133 on Day II of the Rajkot Test on Friday. Duckett’s hundred off 88 balls is now the fastest by an Englishman against India in Tests. Graham Gooch’s hundred off 95 balls at Lord’s 1990 was the previous fastest.

fast ton: England opener Ben Duckett celebrates after completing his century during his unbeaten innings of 133 on Day II of the Rajkot Test on Friday. Duckett’s hundred off 88 balls is now the fastest by an Englishman against India in Tests. Graham Gooch’s hundred off 95 balls at Lord’s 1990 was the previous fastest. PTI

Ravichandran Ashwin had almost sealed Ben Duckett’s Test career when the left-handed batsman last visited India during England’s tour in 2016. Duckett had looked clueless before Ashwin here in Rajkot and also in Visakhapatnam, as the off-spinner had dismissed him on all three occasions in that series.

Ashwin again hogged the limelight on Friday at the Niranjan Shah Stadium by taking his Test tally of wickets to 500. But the man who stole the show on Day II of
the third Test is none other than Duckett (133 batting) with his fearless century, which took England to 207/2 at stumps in response to India’s formidable 445.

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In spite of centurion Ravindra Jadeja adding only two to his overnight 110, India could breach the 400 mark, courtesy Ashwin (37) and the other debutant Dhruv Jurel (46)’s gritty 77-run eighth-wicket stand. But then, Bazball was in full flow in the 35 overs England got to bat on Friday, thanks to Duckett, who was well assisted by Ollie Pope (39).

Slog sweeps, reverse sweeps, conventional sweeps, drives, pulls... there was no shot that the 29-year-old didn’t execute to perfection in his 118-ball unbeaten knock, comprising 21 boundaries and a couple of maximums.

Yes, the pitch, albeit with variable bounce, is flat and slow. India skipper Rohit Sharma perhaps delayed a little bit in bringing Ashwin and Jadeja into the attack, and by that time Duckett had already got into his groove.

But all said and done, credit has to be given to Duckett for the tempo he was able to maintain right through. Barring one yorker from Jasprit Bumrah that came close to trapping him lbw, Duckett was solid and steady against India’s pace spearhead as well.

“To be that far behind in the game and yet going out and playing like that showed real bravery and skill. The way India changed the field and then he’d hit it somewhere else, it was such a skilful innings against a good attack,” pacer Mark Wood (4/114), who finished with best figures for England in the first innings, emphasised.

Even Ashwin had words of praise for Duckett. “I would have really loved to bowl to him when he was on nought and not on 60-70. A couple of shots that he hit, like the slog sweeps, were really special.

“I wanted to clap at his 100, but the hardcore competitor in me didn’t allow me to,” was Ashwin’s message.

Penalty runs

England began their first innings with already five on the board after India conceded a five-run penalty since Ashwin ran on the protected area of the pitch while batting during the first session of Day II.

India had already received their final warning when Jadeja ran on the protected area on Day I.

England got those penalty runs during the 16th over on Friday, when Ashwin pushed the ball towards cover and ran down the pitch. “I was aware of the warning, but my poor motor skills didn’t allow me to get off the pitch in time,” Ashwin said later.

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