Ben Duckett believes there isn’t a « better environment to be involved in » as an England player after hitting his first Test century against Pakistan.
Duckett returned to England’s Test side after a six-year hiatus and opened the batting, hitting 107 runs and sharing a 233-run opening partnership with Zak Crawley.
The 28-year-old was one of four centurions for England on day one of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi. Crawley made 122, while Ollie Pope (108) hit his third Test century and Harry Brook ended the day 101 not out, his maiden Test ton in just his second appearance.
Speaking to Nasser Hussain, Duckett said: « I don’t think there will be a better environment to be involved in. I am sure there will be a lot of cricketers in England who will want to be part of it. It went well today.
« It helps being in these conditions, I knew it was going to be nice batting conditions. The T20 series (in Pakistan) was a big confidence thing for me. »
Duckett was first called up to the Test squad in 2016, but was dropped after four disappointing innings in India and Bangladesh. In that series, Duckett scored 110 runs across seven innings.
He described his return to the Test arena as « special ».
« Very special, pretty crazy day and a crazy build up to the Test match. For me personally, it’s a special day, it’s one I didn’t think that’ll come around.
« I was back at my county trying to score as many runs as I could, just felt I wasn’t close to being picked. The real change was looking at the squad of players at the start of the summer, I went back to playing with more freedom.
« I don’t think there will ever be a better environment to be involved in.
« I am sure there will be lots of cricketers desperate to be in this dressing room and I was one of them last summer. They allow you to play your game and play with freedom. »
‘I enjoyed every minute’
Brook was making only his second appearance in England whites. The 23-year-old was part of England’s T20 World Cup-winning side and played the final Test against South Africa in the summer after Jonny Bairstow dropped out through injury.
He has retained his place at number five, with Bairstow out for an extended period, and grasped his opportunity with both hands.
Brook ended the day on 101 not out from just 81 balls and a strike rate of 124.69. He shared a 176-run partnership with Ollie Pope and hit 14 fours and two sixes in an all-action innings.
He will look to add to his score on day two, which is live on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event from 4.45am Friday, with captain Ben Stokes.
Brook said: « I enjoyed every minute out there, we (Brook and Pope) were just trying to build a partnership, put the bowlers under pressure and score runs every ball.
« The pitches from my experience have always been slow, low and skiddy. It was exact the same as a T20 pitch. I think when Pope and I were batting, a few balls went down, there weren’t many that went up.
« They got it reversing a bit. If we can get the ball reversing, and we can get it under, I am sure we will have a chance to bowl them out. »
Arguably, the highlight of Brook’s and England’s innings came in the 68th over, when the Yorkshireman pummelled Saud Shakeel for six fours in an over.
Asked about that over, Brook said: « They were all bad balls, so I tried to put them all away really. I was probably happier with that than my 100 to be honest! »
‘Ideal start to the tour’
Ollie Pope continued his good form from the summer but said that he struggled for the first 30 balls of his innings.
« I think it’s the ideal start to the tour, We really listened to what Baz (McCullum) and Stokesy have said. It was an amazing day, » Pope said.
« The best thing is everyone has lived by how the two guys up top want us to play. They want us to entertain people.
« It is not about milestones. It is about putting on a show and putting the team in a good position. The fact everyone is so happy to buy into that puts us in a really good place. »
Pope added that he felt England’s start caused Pakistan’s young bowlers to panic, allowing England to pile on the runs.
« It started from the get-go really, it just put Pakistan under pressure straight away, and it looked like they panicked a little bit, » he said.
Stats from England’s record-breaking day
- 174 England’s score at lunch, their highest in the first session of a Test
- 83 Number of balls it took England to reach three figures, new record
- 86 Number of balls it took Crawley to reach hundred – fastest by an England Test opener
« It looked like there wasn’t anywhere they could bowl to those two (openers), and it was the perfect way to start the session and to start a series.
« I came out and really struggled for the first 30 balls and couldn’t find my rhythm. You have just got to get yourself in and play at your tempo. »
‘It was nice to be backed’
Stokes and McCullum have backed Crawley to open, despite suffering from a mixed summer where he was out for some low scores.
But the 24-year-old repaid their faith in him with his masterful innings, which started off with 14 runs from the first over to set the ton for the rest of the day.
« It was a good deck and I felt I could play well. It was a tricky summer, and it was nice to be backed. I was trying to be positive, I was in good touch, I rode my luck but was pleased with the way I played.
« I was disappointed when I got out, I wanted a few more. I just couldn’t get that score (in the summer). I have faced Shah and Rauf before, but I have never been in these conditions and they’re hard to beat over here. »
Watch day two of the first Test between Pakistan and England from Rawalpindi live on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event on Friday (4.45am on air, 5am first ball).