Duckett v Hameed: Who should be Cook’s opening partner for Bangladesh Tests?
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | October 1, 2016
Ben Duckett v Haseeb Hameed: Who partners Cook?
Alex Hales’ decision not to travel to Bangladesh due to to safety concerns may be a blessing in disguise for two of the most talented opening batsmen in English first-class cricket – Ben Duckett and Haseeb Hameed.
Both stars, who are 22 and 19 years old respectively, have been called up to the 17-man Test squad for matches in Chittagong (October 20th-24th) and Dhaka (October 28th – November 1st), but which one will get the nod to partner captain Alastair Cook at the top of the order?
The duo are totally different in style, with wicket-keeper batsman Duckett being a diminutive, explosive-scoring lefty and Hameed a tall right-hander, whose conservative approach has led to his ‘Baby Boycott’ nickname.
They of course have their advantages and disadvantages – although mainly the former – ahead of being picked for the opening Test, which the selectors will carefully go over, but surely both are a future England opening partnership anyway.
Read on to find out Coral’s detailed analysis of each record-breaking starlet…
Ben Duckett profile
Like Hameed, Duckett has been breaking numerous records this season with county club Northamptonshire, who he recently signed a new two-year deal with, and even the England Lions.
After scoring 1338 runs at an average of 60.81 in Division 2 last season, he bettered Hameed’s stats and scored the most in the league – just ahead of Sam Northeast.
Duckett’s top score, meanwhile, was a whopping career best of 282 not out, and he was only denied surpassing 300 due to bad weather. On top of that, his unbeaten knock of 220 against Sri Lanka A was the highest total ever for an England Lions player.
As a result of his above achievements and many others, the Kent-born star broke another record by claiming both the Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards for the past season – the first person to do so in the awards’ 47-year history.
Duckett may only be small in stature, but that didn’t stop the likes of former internationals James Taylor and perhaps the greatest cricketer of all time Sachin Tendulkar impressing at the top level – although it is of course far too early for comparisons with the latter.
His diminutive size means that he is quick to get into position with his feet, and his attacking style could perfectly compliment the more defensive Cook – much like Hales, but Duckett will be hoping to average better than the Nottinghamshire player’s 27.28 from 21 Test innings.
Duckett, who only recently turned 22, also happened to be coached by former England/Yorkshire star and Coral ambassador Darren Gough while studying at Stowe School, so surely that must count for something?
Being in the second-tier of English cricket might work against Duckett, although, unlike football and other sports, there is not too much difference in quality of divisions.
As he is also equally adept in all forms of the game, his versatility may actually hinder his progress in Tests as Hameed seemingly has no interest in becoming an ODI or Twenty20 player.
Not a lot of negatives at all about Duckett – the same as you’ll find out for Hameed. The former’s decent displays in two of the three One Day Internationals and practice matches also put him in the frame for selection in the longer form of the game, and Duckett is 9/2 with Coral to be best England batsman in the first Test.
What he said
“It was going to be tough to break into the side but a couple dropping out of the Bangladesh tour has given me a chance. I’m over the moon to be selected.
“I’ve got the chance but to stay in the side and in the squad I’m going to have to perform. I’ve just going to take the confidence that I have from this summer, play the way that I play to try and do that.
“I got my England call-ups, and so many other things have happened. If someone had said at the start of the season that all this would happen I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Haseeb Hameed profile
With 1198 runs in last season’s County Championship Division 1, Hameed was one of the best performing batsmen by scoring the fifth-highest amount in the league – despite being still a teenager.
His average of average of 49.91 may not be as impressive as Duckett’s but, as mentioned before, he is in a league above and managed to even outshine Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara, who got 49.48 from just five fewer innings.
Lancashire’s Hameed is in similar vein to Cook – a longest form of the game specialist and patient batsman – so, if he were to partner the captain in Bangladesh or in future they would certainly frustrate a lot of bowlers.
His strike rate of 39.01 may be the lowest of any of the top 32 batsmen in the County Championship top-flight last campaign, but that is certainly not a bad thing. The fact that Hameed is a throwback to the old days of cricket when the motto was pretty much ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and that his sole focus is on getting a Test call-up could work in his way.
With four hundreds this season to his name, he matched Duckett’s total, but got seven 50s to the Northamptonshire youngster’s five.
Former England U19 captain Hameed, like Duckett again, has also set records this year, being the youngest Lancashire player to score 1000 runs and the only person from the county to hit a century in each innings of the Roses match – against rivals Yorkshire.
Hameed broke Michael Atherton’s record, with the ex-England skipper incidentally being the last Lancashire opening batsman to play for the nation in Tests since his final match in 2001.
Could he follow Atherton’s example again? The flat pitches in South Asia could certainly suit Hameed’s technically correct and stubborn style. He’s also 9/2 to be best England batsman in the first Test.
Age might count against him, being only 19, as not many in the game have debuts in their teens, so the selectors may be worried that a step up from county cricket might be a bit too soon and instead just want him to on the tour for the experience.
Another point to think about is that Hameed might be seen as too similar in style to Cook, and will they significantly halt an innings before it even gets started with their lower strike-rates?
Just one more thing to note, Hameed was beaten by Duckett to claim the Young Player of the Year award, while he didn’t even make the shortlist for Players’ Player of the Year, so is that a sign that his achievements are not yet as well recognised as his counterpart?
What he said
“I can’t go in there just looking to gain experience, that will come anyway. The way I see it is I’m looking to get into that side for the first Test and that starting eleven. I’ll have to work hard and prepare for that.
“If you’re playing for your country, you should feel pressure because, at the end of the day, you’ve been selected from a massive group of players. To have got selected into the 17-man squad in itself is a great achievement for me.
“But I also think it’s important that I see it as just the start. It’s great getting the call-up but it’s about going out there and putting in performances now.”
Going through each and every point above, Coral’s cricketing experts have come to the conclusion that Duckett would be the best choice to open alongside Cook in Bangladesh.
England have been searching for an ideal more attacking-styled partner for Cook ever since Andrew Strauss retired, and in Duckett they really could have a winner.
There is still plenty of time for Hameed to get the call, and he might even be tried for the second Test, but for now we believe it is just slightly too soon.
Alastair Cook (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Zafar Ansari, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Gareth Batty, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn, Haseeb Hameed, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
For more cricket views, tips and features ahead during the tour of Bangladesh, check out our dedicated section.