Ruturaj Gaikwad batted long, scored a fifty but couldn't really switch, Chennai Super Kings vs Gujarat Titans, IPL 2022, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, May 15, 2022

Ben Duckett admitted the atmosphere within England’s Test team was everything he’d hoped for as he watched from the provincial circuit last summer as he marked his Test comeback with one of England’s four centuries in an extraordinary record-breaking day in the first test at Rawalpindi.

Not even the loss of 15 overs to the rapidly setting winter sun could slow England’s surprising progress, as they achieved a first day Test record of 506 for 4, with Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Harry Brook all reaching three figures. also – Brook’s own first hundred comes from just 80 deliveries, the third fastest in England’s history.

Even taking into account the moribund nature of the Rawalpindi surface – one on which England themselves will have to work hard to take 20 wickets – it was a stunning statement from a team coming into the series with six home Test wins out of seven in the English summer . And one that was all the more impressive given that the day’s game was all but canceled, after half the squad was knocked down by a disease virus on the eve of the Test.

“It was a pretty crazy day and an even crazier build up to this test match,” Duckett told Sky Sports at the end. “A lot of us have been sick in bed for the past few days, so I think at one point we weren’t sure if we were going to get out of here today.

“I didn’t get out of bed [yesterday]’ he added. So for me personally it’s a special day. It’s one I didn’t think would come and I’m very happy.”

As he told ESPNcricinfo earlier this week, after six years on the sidelines following a grueling tour of India and Bangladesh in 2016, Duckett’s Test ambitions had been rekindled by the distinct sense of fun England had returned to the format under Ben Stokes and Brendon. McCullum. And after a single remarkable day back on the team, his prejudices have not failed him.

“I don’t think there will ever be a better environment to be involved in,” he said. “Like I said, that’s what it looked like from the outside, and I’m sure there will be a lot of cricketers in England who were desperate to be part of this dressing room. I was one of them last summer. You have to go and you game with freedom, and luckily it went well today.”

Despite their relative lack of testing experience, both Brook and Duckett have glimpsed these Pakistani conditions through their involvement in the PSL and also the country’s recent T20 series, in which both men impressed with their strength and innovation in a 4 -3 series win.

“The pitches from my experience have always been slow, low and stiff,” Brook told Sky Sports. “So it was literally exactly the same as a T20 pitch. Whether that will change during the game I don’t know. But when me and Popey were batting there were a few that went down, and not many that went up .” , so hopefully as the game progresses we’ll see it get lower.

“Obviously they need to turn it around a bit. So if we can turn that ball around too and it starts to go underground I’m sure we have a chance to eject them.”

Despite only playing in his second Test match, Brook’s phlegmatic approach to batting was on full display as he marched to his hundred without a second thought – including a remarkable over against Saud Shakeel in which he became the first England batsman to six fours passed in a single test.

“They were all bad balls, I really tried to put them away,” he said. “I was probably happier with that than with a hundred.”

On a day when Joe Root was, remarkably, the only England batsman to be dismissed for less than 100, it was left to Pope to be the senior pro of the century-making quartet, having boosted his leadership status when he was captain during the tour. last week against England Lions in Abu Dhabi.

“Obviously I think it was the ideal start to the tour,” said Pope. “I think we really listened to what Baz and Stokes said to us, and also how they want us to play. So that was a great day and I couldn’t be happier for Brooky too.

“It really started from the start,” added Pope, noting how Crawley had pocketed 14 runs from Naseem Shah’s first over of the match. “We put pressure on them right away and it almost seemed like they kind of panicked. Also with Ducky, the way he cuts the ball off the fifth stump and also cuts his legs off, there wasn’t really a way she would being able to bowl to those two. It’s the perfect way for those guys to trap us and start a series that way.”

And for Crawley, too, it was a timely reprise of his qualities, after being supported to the limit by the captain and coach during a lean English summer. Despite averaging 23.00 in seven Tests against New Zealand, India and South Africa, he ended that latter campaign on a high with a series seal 69 not out at The Oval, and has now reacquainted the team against whom he scored a towering 267. at the Ageas Bowl in 2020.

“It’s been a tough summer and it’s never easy to hit in England, but it’s nice to be supported [Stokes and McCullum] and luckily I have a hundred today,” Crawley said. “I tried to be positive and I felt good leading up to this game. I was lucky a few times, but rode my luck and I was happy with how I played. But I was disappointed when I came out, I wanted a few more.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket