Lancashire ace boosts Test claim
Birthday boy Ben Duckett and Lancashire's Haseeb Hameed strengthened their chances of making their Test bows later this week as England's final warm-up against a Bangladesh Cricket Board XI ended in a draw.
Duckett, who turned 22 on Monday, and 19-year-old Hameed opened the batting for the tourists and retired out at the lunch and tea intervals respectively after going past their half-centuries at MA Aziz Stadium.
Duckett top-scored with 60, having accelerated to his fourth fifty in his last five innings for England after a watchful start, while Hameed was more patient but just as encouraging as he defied the intense Chittagong heat to boost England’s total to 256 all out.
Lancashire’s Jos Buttler may have seen his chance of playing as a specialist batsman go by after making only four but Gary Ballance gave the England selectors some food for thought with a doughty 36 not out ahead of the first Test against Bangladesh, which gets under way on Thursday.
It could now be a straight shootout between Duckett and Ballance for a middle order spot, although the former is vying with Hameed to become the ninth opening partner to Alastair Cook since Andrew Strauss’ retirement four years ago.
Cook arrived in Bangladesh on Monday after attending the birth of his second child, and he will break Alec Stewart’s record for the most Test appearances by an Englishman if, as expected, he lines up at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.
Who partners him will still be the biggest talking point and Duckett put forward a convincing case early on on a sluggish outfield.
He accumulated steadily at the start before cutting loose towards the end of the morning session as England responded to the BCB XI’s total of 294 all out.
Having made 25 from his first 70 balls, Duckett needed just another 21 to bring up his latest fifty, going past the mark with a cut through point for his eighth four.
The left-hander had also made a half-century in England’s opening practice match as well as another couple in the preceding one-day series.
Hameed took a couple of blows from Taskin Ahmed early on and although he he had a comparable strike rate for much of the session, the Lancashire teenager remained vigilant as Duckett started to become more attack-minded.
Duckett took two fours in three balls off Ebadat Hossain in the penultimate over to end the session on a high but he did not emerge after lunch as stand-in captain Joe Root partnered Hameed.
Root was punchy from the off but on 24, he was caught behind attempting to sweep leg-spinner Tanveer Haider to give the BCB XI their first genuine wicket.
In the next over Hameed upped his tempo with three successive fours - a straight drive, late cut and pull emphasised the array of shots in his armoury - although Jonny Bairstow and Buttler did not last long.
Bairstow made six before thumping straight to short cover while Buttler perhaps saw his chances of featuring in the first Test go up in smoke after slicing to point on four, giving Tanveer his third wicket.
Hameed reached his half-century with a flick through midwicket for four off his 114th ball and got to 57 before cutting short his innings as Ballance was given an opportunity to push his claims at the crease.
The Yorkshireman, who played at five in the order against Pakistan over the summer, proved resilient as first Ben Stokes (25) and Moeen Ali (15) were bowled before Zafar Ansari (one) was run out.
Ballance, who made an unbeaten 27 from 72 balls in the first warm-up at the same venue, stubbornly refused to yield once again but he ran out of partners after Chris Woakes (23) and Gareth Batty (one) fell in quick succession.