Ben Duckett’s innings of 61 helped England beat India in the quarter-final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014. The most impressive thing about his innings was the way he handled the Indian spinners. In particular, the reverse sweeps he essayed. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about Duckett’s innings and the uncanny resemblance with Eoin Morgan.
“He has been playing that shot since he was 10 years old. I’ve never seen him miss one and he keeps playing it in the nets,” said England skipper Will Rhodes about Ben Duckett, the star of their ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014 quarter-final encounter against India at Dubai. It was Duckett’s fearless approach to the spinners that caught the eye when England trounced the defending champions as his knock set the tone for the victory. On a surface that was slow, and was also stopping a bit, he was brilliant, unleashing those audacious reverse sweeps and using his feet to the spinners. Ultimately, he scored 59 of his 61 runs off the spinners — a passage of play that perhaps sealed India’s fate.
When one watched Duckett bat, there was an uncanny resemblance to Eoin Morgan. He has a similar stance and a back-lift and bats with ultimate flourish. He changed his footing a few times, irrespective of whether the fielders were in or on the boundary. Speaking to reporters after the game, Duckett said, “I’ve played it for a few years to be honest. My dad said, ‘don’t play that’ but I didn’t listen. I’ve played hockey at school and its some of that.” When asked about the drag flick in hockey, he said it is his favourite shot. No wonder he hits the reverse-sweep with such nonchalance.”
But, when it comes to his resemblance with Morgan, Duckett says that he has heard quite a lot about it. “That’s something I’ve been told quite a lot. He is a role model and a top-class England player. If people are saying I play like him, I’d take that as a compliment,” he says. Duckett does look up to the likes of Morgan and Joss Buttler when it comes to playing those inventive strokes, but knows that as a No 4, he has to be solid and give his team a platform. That is why, he was clearly unhappy when he was dismissed on 61. “It didn’t help getting out on 61, obviously, the job wasn’t done then. I am not very happy with the way I got out,” he says.
Consider the situation, Duckett was in. He walked in when England were 36 for two chasing 222, with the Indian spinners having overs up their sleeve. And, once they were on, what does he do? Duckett decides to take the power play and throw the Indians off-track. It was a tactic that worked wonders as the momentum shifted in England’s favour thereafter.
Duckett had some sound thought behind his strategy, “They [Indian spinners] were good. We normally take the powerplay, just bat and hit normally, and they sort of went death and put their fielders on the edges. It sort of suited me, all the cover fielders were out. That is why I was playing those sweeps. I think it is important to get on top of them. When they settled into a rhythm, they bowled really well like at the end there. I just tried to get ahead of the rate and just not to leave it too late.”
It hasn’t been an easy ride for Duckett so far, as he was injured after playing England’s opening encounter against the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In that game he scored 83, but had to wait for two games to get another opportunity. To prove himself against the defending champions gave proof of his confidence, as he was England’s impact player on the day.
England have some technically sound batsmen in their ranks, but Duckett adds spice to the mix. He is inventive and confident. Pakistan do have to watch out when they clash with England in the semi-final, as the No 4 batsman in the England setup is in good touch and looking forward to make a mark.
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