Ben Duckett and Harry Brook reiterate their emerging importance to England

Ben Duckett scored 79/Duckett is back in Test cricket with a much better player – REUTERS/AKHTAR SOOMRO

In England’s T20 series in Pakistan in September, their top goalscorers were Harry Brook, who announced his arrival on the international scene, and Ben Duckett, who made a fine comeback. In the middle tier, the pair proved a brilliant partnership in a fine England win.

Three months later, these two fine and flexible batsmen are once again England’s top run-scorers, in Test cricket alone. It’s rinse and repeat: Brook announced the arrival of him in this format and Duckett has made a nice comeback after years in the wilderness. At Multan on Saturday, it was their perfectly pitched pair of 68 in 15 overs that solidified a position of real strength for England.

In their first four innings, Duckett and Brook each have a century and two major fifties. They banked when conditions were suitable in Rawalpindi and sagged more when they were harder to come by in Multan.

If Brook was the most captivating, twice sincerely threatening Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year-old record for England’s fastest Test century, it is Duckett whose appearance may be more significant.

England don’t want aggressive mid-range shot makers and Jonny Bairstow will be back in the team no matter what. But openers have been a problem for a decade now and, with Duckett and Zak Crawley, England could have a partnership with legs. Their legs, actually, are what might make this pair effective, because they are so different in length, that they mess up the bowlers’ plans.

On day two, in constant partnership with Joe Root and then Brook, Duckett proved to be an intelligent cricketer. Before England bat again, Stuart Broad, sitting in the Sky studios, predicted that “we could see BazBall at fast forward” because of their lead of 79. Duckett himself said on Friday evening that England would not be dead wondering, with the ball spinning from the first sitting. Will Jacks’ elevation to No. 3, as a successful replacement for Ollie Pope, whose caseload was immense over the first seven days of the series, seemed to indicate that that was indeed the plan.

But Duckett read the situation beautifully. While Crawley and Pope ran out for no reason, and Jacks was too likely too aggressive too early, Duckett just ticked at his natural pace, rather than trying to force the issue. His strike rate was still 80, but it didn’t look like he was taking too much risk. With Pakistan adept at his style, he didn’t rely too much on his sweeping range.

Once Duckett exited, Brook picked up where he left off: AP

Once Duckett exited, Brook picked up where he left off: AP

Until he was dismissed in pursuit of a second consecutive overturned boundary, there had been only one blemish in Duckett’s inning. In the 69th minute, he shoveled Ahmed straight to midwicket, where Babar Azam dropped the easier catch. Luckily for the captain, Ahmed soon made Duckett the 10th wicket of his stunning debut.

Conditions in this series have been largely good for batting and Duckett will know that the slow, low nature of these pitches suit him perfectly. There will be bigger challenges, especially at home next summer, but also in New Zealand in February. There, the pitches will likely be green, but there will be some juice at the start for a strong group of seamers. Those typical shots will be an embellishment, not a banker.

But Duckett has returned to Test cricket a much better player, unsurprisingly, than the raw talent who made his Test debut on Asian terms six years ago. While he has a very distinct game and game plan, there is an adaptability that he will need to show in the coming months.

Once Duckett was out, Brook picked up where he left off, playing some jaw-dropping shots with spinners. There was a delightful late cut and, with Zahid Mahmood badly bowling the wicket, he swept well then, more importantly, leapt down and drove backhand through extra cover for four. By then, Pakistan’s spirit seemed crushed.

It’s very early days, but Brook looks like the first English batsman to immediately establish himself in Test cricket since Root a decade ago. On day three, with England looking to take the lead out of Pakistan’s reach, he has a chance for a second Test century.

It was a good tour for England’s young batsmen, with Root and Ben Stokes surprisingly peripheral. Duckett and Brook were the best.

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