Ben Duckett has no regrets taking on Australia after falling short of century
Ben Duckett insisted England had no regrets about taking on Australia’s short-ball challenge at Lord’s, despite being dismissed by a bouncer just two runs short of a first Ashes century.
England vastly improved their position on day two of the second Test, taking the last five wickets for 77 to dismiss their rivals for 416, then responding with 278 for four.
That represented a sizeable swing in fortunes after a lethargic first-day performance, but it might have been even better. They had Australia boxed in at 188 for one, but saw Ollie Pope, Duckett and Joe Root all lose their wickets during a sustained barrage of bumpers.
A more cautious approach might have helped them negotiate a frenetic passage of play more safely, but would have been out of character for a team who have spent a year steering into risks and taking the aggressive approach.
Duckett is a true believer of the ‘Bazball’ philosophy and was at peace after being caught at fine-leg pulling Josh Hazlewood.
“It’s a shot I play and a shot I’ve scored plenty of runs with in my career. I would have been gutted with myself if I’d gone away from it, gone into my shell and gloved one behind,” he said.
“Ten metres either side and I’ve got a hundred. Falling so close to three figures here at Lord’s, I was obviously gutted for half-an-hour after, but I’m happy with how I played. I thought it was certainly my best innings in an England shirt.
“It’s the way we play our cricket. If they have plans like that and we go into our shell, it would be totally against what we do. We lost a couple of wickets but we’re in a good position.
“I was batting with Popey and Rooty but there was not a lot of chat, it was just ‘how do you want to go about this?’. That’s the kind of fun environment we are creating. If you want to back away and hit it over cover for six or do whatever you need to do, then just commit to it.
“Popey just said ‘I’m going get inside of it and smack it into the stands’. No-one in that dressing room will be disappointed with how Popey got out, everyone will just be a bit gutted it didn’t go for six.”
Earlier in the day Australia’s Steve Smith did manage to make it to a century, scoring 110 as he celebrated his 12th Ashes ton. Only the great Donald Bradman has more in the series, well clear on 19, and Smith had a different perspective on England’s approach.
He felt vindicated that Australia’s seamers kept creating openings at a time when they could easily have retreated into defence and credited Ben Stokes, the chief architect of England’s all-out aggression, for restoring an element of calm at the end.
“Lord’s has deep pockets, so if you are going to hit it for six you’re going to have to get a fair piece of it. The fielders are there if you don’t,” he said.
“We were setting fields and they were taking it on. England are playing this really aggressive brand and they didn’t look like they were holding back. That created opportunities for us.
“It was great that we managed to create so many chances on that kind of wicket. It was just Stokesy who changed it. He was only looking to get underneath it, or ride it out. The rest were trying to take it on and we probably didn’t feel as in the game against him as we did with the others.”