Ben Duckett ready to put fluffed England Test bow behind him as he bids for recall

Exclusive: Blocking out for a draw isn’t something the free-scoring Duckett is readily associated with and he is, unsurprisingly, determined to ensure that his Test career isn’t over

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Ben Duckett was many peoples wild card choice for England’s winter Test tours – but after fluffing his lines he now has work to do to trump those ahead of him in the current pecking order. 

The Northamptonshire left-hander has barely had time to draw breath since the end of last season, making his Test debut in Chittagong against Bangladesh and playing three further Tests as England drew against the minnows and were then soundly thumped by India. 

His return of 110 runs at an average of 15 hardly screams success, but Duckett goes into the English summer – via the North v South series and the MCC v Champion County match in Abu Dhabi this weekend – knowing that a slot in England’s top order is still potentially only a few big scores away. 

He certainly came up with plenty of those last season, scoring 2706 for his county and the England Lions across all formats. That glut, though, contrasted sharply with his struggles in Asia before Christmas.

Speaking in January, Duckett blamed his failure in his fourth and final Test of the winter for failing to trust his instincts and following his captain’s orders instead. 

Blocking out for a draw isn’t something the free-scoring Duckett is readily associated with and he is, unsurprisingly, determined to ensure that his Test career isn’t defined by that 16-ball duck in Visakhapatnam.  

“I’ve experienced an England tour, my first one, so regardless of how it went that’s something I’ll always look back on,” he says. “The conditions were extremely tough and at times I think I showed what I can do. For me now, though, it’s almost a case of forgetting about it. 

“I’m a very simple guy so I didn’t really spend too much time thinking how tough the winter was going to be. It’s was always going to be difficult to play one of the best sides in the world away from home against some world class spinners. 

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Duckett had a difficult time in the winter (Reuters)

“I got picked for the trip on the back of being a good player of spin and a class bowler got me out a couple of times. It wasn’t like I was getting out to part-timers, I was getting out to one guy most of the time. Now I’m looking forward not back.” 

Duckett will be relieved that he’s unlikely to come up against Ravi Ashwin – who dismissed him three times in three innings in India - again any time soon and that the turning pitches he encountered in India will be a world away from the ones he’ll bat on this summer.  

“They’re not massive technical issues,” he says. “In England the ball might turn one or two centimetres but in India you sometimes have balls pitching leg and hitting the top of off stump.

“Moving forward to this season I’ve really just got to remember how I played in England last summer and scored so many runs.” 

The 22-year-old has had precious little time to stew over his Test failures, having since crammed in a stint in the Pakistan Super League, a Lions series in Sri Lanka, the North v South series and, on Sunday, the season opener between the MCC and Middlesex, last season’s County Champions. 

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Duckett is eager to earn a recall (Getty)

The runs haven’t necessarily flowed as readily as Duckett would have liked so far in 2017 but if he needs any inspiration he can draw on his experience of watching Virat Kohli at close quarters back in November. 

“It seems to a bit strange to say but it was sometimes a pleasure to watch him bat because he just made it look so easy against a pretty good England attack,” he says. “He’s out of this league really - some of things he does aren’t things that I could just pick up a bat and do. 

“He’s extremely calm at the crease but he’s a very dominant batsman – he gets on top of the bowlers so quickly. In the form he was in at that time it was great to watch.” 

He may lack the finesse of  the Indian skipper but any regular at Wantage Road will tell you that Duckett can be similarly destructive when the force is with him, as it was countless times last season. 

His strike rate in the T20 Blast tournament was over 140 last season, making him comfortably one of the most free-scoring batsman in the domestic game. Plenty would argue that Duckett’s best chance of future international recognition lies in the shortest formats rather than the Test arena.

That, though, is not a theory that Duckett subscribes to.  

“I would love to play Test cricket again, I would love to play a Test in England in front of a huge crowd,” he says. “For me Test cricket is different here - I wouldn’t ever want to knock that back. 

“My big aim is still to play Test cricket for England. Obviously playing in T20 in front of a packed house and an amazing atmosphere is great fun but if you’re playing at the top level, no matter what format you’re playing in, the pressure is there and the crowds are there. 

“That’s why I love all the formats.” 

With the Champions Trophy creeping ever closer, Duckett knows time is short. Some long, long sixes in the meantime would do his chances of a recall no harm at all.  

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