India vs England: Ben Duckett’s unbeaten ton leads tourists’ fightback

England opener Ben Duckett roars in celebration after hitting a century
Ben Duckett’s 88-ball hundred was the second-fastest by an England opener in Test cricket

Ben Duckett’s scintillating century led a breathtaking England counter-attack on the second day of the third Test against India in Rajkot.

The opener crashed his third Test hundred from only 88 balls in a swashbuckling assault on the India bowling in the evening sun.

Duckett added 84 from 80 balls with Zak Crawley for the first wicket then another 93 off 102 with Ollie Pope.

He was unbeaten on 133 from 118 balls at the close, with 21 fours and two sixes. Duckett had taken England to 207-2 from only 35 overs, 238 behind India’s 445.

England started the day by removing nightwatchman Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja, finally out for 112, inside the first five overs, but were then frustrated by a partnership of 79 between debutant Dhruv Jurel and Ravichandran Ashwin.

It was the beginning of an eventful day for Ashwin, who was the culprit when India were penalised five runs for running on the pitch and then removed Crawley to become the ninth bowler to reach 500 Test wickets.

Even after getting through Ashwin and Jurel, England were frustrated by a last-wicket stand of 30 between Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj.

Then came the Duckett pyrotechnics, another thrilling chapter in a superb series tantalisingly poised at 1

England Bazball when they need it most

Realistically, England were staring down the barrel of the match and possibly the series at the end of India’s innings. Never before have India been beaten when making so many runs in the first innings of a home Test.

England missed chances on day one and were unusually passive on day two. They removed Kuldeep and Jadeja in quick succession, then later would do the same to Ashwin and Jurel, but in between they dropped Jurel twice, were oddly defensive with their fields and seemed devoid of wicket-taking ideas.

The tourists also showed signs of tetchiness sparked by India’s running on the pitch. Joe Root even got frustrated with the Spidercam.

There was nothing defensive about the way England got themselves back into the match, with Duckett tapping into the freewheeling spirit of the early days of the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum era. Bar the one-off Test against Ireland, this was England’s fastest run-rate for more than a year.

India were stunned, completely powerless to contain Duckett, who made a huge dent in the deficit in little more than a session of play.

England still have plenty more to do. On a pitch that promises to deteriorate, batting last will be a huge challenge. A first-innings lead would be incredibly valuable.

Duckett delivers

England's Ben Duckett (left) is congratulated by India captain Rohit Sharma (right) as they leave the field
Duckett reached his century after just 25.5 overs of England’s innings

Duckett has been threatening to play a knock like this all series. In all four prior innings he reached 20, but never got past 47.

This was a memorable blitz, at one point threatening Gilbert Jessop’s 122-year old record for the fastest England Test hundred. Surely it is only a matter of time before a member of this England team better Jessop’s 76 balls.

Duckett’s highlight-reel strokeplay had him scoring through 360 degrees. When there was width, he cut. If the ball was too full, he played drives through the covers or down the ground. He played his trademark sweeps to the spinners, with Kuldeep belted for seven runs an over and Jadeja more than eight.

The left-hander’s half-century came from only 39 balls. Crawley’s contribution to the opening stand was only 15 and after he top-edged a sweep to give Ashwin his landmark wicket, Pope eased into Duckett’s slipstream.

Duckett survived an lbw review on 79 when he was struck by a searing Bumrah yorker, then drove Siraj for four to complete the second-fastest hundred by an England opener in Tests after Crawley’s 86 balls.

Duckett’s celebrations were passionate, but that turned to disbelief when Pope was given lbw on review to Siraj for 39, the ball shown to be clipping the top of leg stump. It left Root to restore calm on nine not out, though Duckett did also survive an lbw review against Ashwin in the final over of the day.

England finally tame the tail

India resumed on 326-5 and England would have had hopes of limiting their total after Kuldeep edged James Anderson and Jadeja chipped back to Root.

But wicketkeeper Jurel looked assured and Ashwin was typically obdurate. England captain Stokes opted against his usual close catchers, while Mark Wood was asked to bowl a back-breaking spell of bouncers either side of lunch, without success.

During the eighth-wicket partnership came the moment of controversy. India had been given a warning on the first day for Jadeja running down the pitch. When Ashwin repeated the crime, umpire Joel Wilson stepped in.

Leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed finally made the breakthrough. Ashwin scooped to mid-on on 37 and Jurel, dropped by both Pope and Stokes on 32, edged a cut on 46.

England still had to endure Bumrah swiping 26 before he was pinned in front to give Wood a fourth wicket.

The penalty runs meant England began their innings on 5-0, not that Duckett needed the head start.

‘Neck and neck’ – reaction

India spinner Ravinchandran Ashwin: “I would like to dedicate my 500th wicket to my father. He has been there through thick and thin.

“The game is neck and neck. They are putting us under pressure but it is important not to react to that pressure.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “One of the incredible days of Test cricket. Ben Duckett’s was a special innings and up there with Ollie Pope’s in the first Test.

“If England bat the full day tomorrow they have a great chance.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “A remarkable innings from Ben Duckett, he has wrestled every bit of initiative India had.

“What a day but England still have more batting to do.”

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