In a year which has produced 2,706 runs and both PCA awards, Ben Duckett now faces the prospect of a first England cap. At just 21, Duckett is possibly the most exciting English prospect for some time. This article will consider the heights possible to Duckett – perhaps even enough to rival a certain Quinton De Kock. With South Africa touring next summer, is a mouth-watering clash of explosive, flamboyant left-handers on the cards?
Duckett’s Stellar Year
In just the opening game of the season, the 21-year-old hit the ground running by making a career best 282* in which only rain halted him from making a maiden triple century. Early season form led to an England Lions call, in which he made a confident 163* vs Sri Lanka A. However, Duckett’s summer highlight came against Pakistan A where he made a record-breaking 220* off just 131 balls. Less than a month later, the Northants talisman led his team into the t20 blast final with an excellent 84, which they later won for a second time in four years.
Duckett’s England call is made more impressive due to playing in Division Two, something which has hindered a number of players in the past. While others have moved to Division One teams to enhance their England chances, Duckett has remained loyal to Northants. Moeen Ali is another to stay loyal to his Division Two County, Worcestershire. However, the two left-handers will be going head to head this month, along with James Vince, to become Jason Roy’s new opening partner as England begin their ODI series against Bangladesh.
Certainly, there is room for all three batsmen to feature against Bangladesh given the decision to rest Joe Root, allowing Duckett, Ali, or Vince to bat at three. Many would see Duckett’s inclusion as a no-brainer given how South Africa’s Quinton De Kock has thrived in international cricket. The 23-year-old recently blasted an ODI career best of 178 off just 113 balls against Australia, continuing his extraordinary conversion rate in the format as he now has eleven centuries and seven fifties in ODI cricket.
Indeed, a head-to-head between the explosive pair may not be limited to just the shorter formats given Duckett’s record for Northants and De Kock’s recent promotion to the top of the order during the second Test against New Zealand in which he made 82.
Alex Hales’ decision not to tour Bangladesh presents any fringe batsmen with an opportunity to make their mark on international cricket. Although Haseeb Hameed looks to be winning the race to become Alistair Cook’s latest opening partner, Duckett will certainly be hot on his heels given how no one since Andrew Strauss has made the role their own. Perhaps Duckett will be more successful in becoming ‘England’s David Warner’ after Alex Hales was unable to replicate his free-scoring nature in Test cricket. After bowling Glamorgan out in the first-innings of a Championship match with a lead of 145, Ben Duckett responded in typical David Warner fashion by smashing 185 off just 159 balls in the second-innings – Northants eventually winning by a massive 318 runs. However, given England’s growing list of failed openers, many would take a player who can produce runs consistently rather than try and replicate one of Australia’s strengths. Ben Duckett is certainly capable of either role.
While Duckett’s career has already produced many highs, it has not been without its lows. Prior to the 2013 U19 World Cup, he was dropped from the tour to the UAE due to dropping his fitness standards. One year later, Duckett again missed his county’s pre-season tour to the Caribbean for similar reasons. Soon after, a drink-driving ban was another low point. David Ripley has to be credited for the management of his young player. After six months away, Duckett returned refreshed and motivated. ‘’We thought it would be good to allow him to stand on his own two feet. I think he realised he made a mistake and from that moment on he showed a lot of maturity. It didn’t happen for him overnight – but when his chance came, he grasped it,’’ Ripley said.
Duckett is not the first to come off the rails somewhat and he will certainly not be the last. Based on his ability, he will enjoy a long and successful career at the highest level. However, as with everyone, the challenge of handling the mental implications of the international game will provide the sternest test of Ben Duckett’s career to date.