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Ducking out of life

Well, everyone who has ever held a bat in a game knows just how little fun it is to return to the pavilion without, as the cliché goes, troubling the scorers (actually, that’s another of those false phrases, because as a regular scorer myself I can assure you that’s a total pain in the #### to have to make another set of complex entries in the book so soon after the last one…).
I wondered recently who, at Test level, were the most likely companions for accompaniment by Daddles the Duck as they trudged off the field. Cricinfo, the fount of all wisdom, has a thorough listing of who has the most ducks: And the answer is Courtney Walsh (43), Glenn McGrath (35) and Shane Warne (34). But the listing is somewhat misleading as to who is/was the most likely to be dismissed for 0. If you think about it, you can rack up a lot of ducks simply by batting in many innings without necessarily being incompetent (the Waugh twins and Mike Atherton racked up 19-22 ducks in their long careers). So, which batsmen, when appearing at the crease, most make the bowler salivate at the thought of a cheap victim? To work this out, I calculated what percentage of the batsman’s dismissals ended in a duck (not what percentage of total innings, as that includes not outs, but actual dismissals). The table below reveals the answer: for four batsmen, a 0 appears after their name in at least 50% of their career dismissals! And in the case of New Zealand’s Chris Martin, nearly 7 dismissals out of 10 were for 0! I found that to be a quite remarkable demonstration of batting incompetence. It was also notable that another New Zealander. Danny Morrison, was third on the list, the pair of Kiwis separated only by India’s Bhagwath Chandrasekhar who did at least have the perfectly decent excuse of having a congenitally withered right arm that made it hard for him to hold the bat properly. The list below includes all who were out for 0 in more than 20% of their completed innings, provided they had more than 15 total ducks.

% 0 Name Total 0
68.1 CS Martin (NZ) 32
56.1 BS Chandrasekhar (India) 23
53.3 DK Morrison (NZ) 24
50.0 PCR Tufnell (Eng) 15
49.0 Danish Kaneria (Pak) 25
41.7 MS Panesar (Eng) 15
41.0 DE Malcolm (Eng) 16
40.3 GD McGrath (Aus) 35
40.0 M Dillon (WI) 26
34.7 CA Walsh (WI) 43
33.9 FH Edwards (WI) 19
33.3 SJ Harmison (Eng/ICC) 21
31.5 J Garner (WI) 17
30.6 M Muralitharan (SL/ICC) 33
29.8 JA Snow (Eng) 17
29.6 M Ntini (SA) 21
29.2 MJ Hoggard (Eng) 19
28.8 GP Wickramasinghe (SL) 17
28.8 DBL Powell (WI) 15
27.9 AA Donald (SA) 17
27.8 Z Khan (India) 25
27.4 BS Bedi (India) 20
23.5 DL Underwood (Eng) 19
23.4 EAS Prasanna (India) 15
22.9 AR Caddick (Eng) 19
22.7 MA Holding (WI) 15
22.4 CEL Ambrose (WI) 26
22.1 Wasim Bari (Pak) 19
21.4 LR Gibbs (WI) 15
21.2 Waqar Younis (Pak) 21
21.1 JE Emburey (Eng) 16

A few vignettes about Test match ducks… One of my favorites in recent years was the fate of Australia’s Ryan Harris in the Adelaide Test in the last Ashes series. Harris was dismissed for a King Pair, hardly unique, but he referred both of them to the DRS system, which upheld each decision. Thus, Harris was actually given out four times in two balls, which surely HAS to be unique. And who can forget Sri Lanka’s Marvan Atapattu starting his Test career with five 0s (and a 1) in his first 6 innings – mind you, he bounced back to rack up 6 double centuries to end up 4th on that prestigious list (and also 17 more ducks). Cricinfo also has an entertaining section about players who appeared only transiently on the International scene: In there is the tale of Roy Park who “went in at No. 3, but was bowled first ball: Australia won by an innings, so Park didn’t bat again – and in fact he never won another cap, as his medical career took up more of his time afterwards. Legend has it that Park’s wife watched him go out to bat at the MCG but dropped her knitting at the vital moment: while bending down to pick it up she missed her husband’s entire international career at the crease.”
Ducks also happen at club level. I know, I have racked up no fewer than 20 myself (10 first ball!) for my current club over the past 12 years (although that translates to “only”11.9% of my dismissals). And the club “leader” in this category has no fewer than 40 (17.6%), which is going to take some beating. My own most notorious duck happened in frustrating circumstances. We were at the Merion ground in Philadelphia, arguably THE most beautiful place to play in the USA. And, it being a Festival game against rather weak opposition, I was given a rare chance to bat at #3. Plus, I had a brand new bat, just waiting for its first contact with a ball under match conditions. The first wicket went down, so I strolled out in the May sunshine, to the non-striker’s end, looking at some pretty ordinary bowlers and anticipated having some fun for half an hour or so. My partner, Richard, clubbed the next ball away to deep square leg which, on this very large ground, was over 70 yards away. In club cricket, we usually use relay throws to get it in from so far away, so this was an easy two, even for a middle-aged old codger, especially as I was running to the bowler’s end. But I had neglected to notice that, out in the deep, was an old friend, Robyn, with a howitzer arm… He shelled the ball back right to the bowler’s hands, over the bails, on the full and I was gone by a yard, run out without facing a ball. Pissed off beyond belief, I tucked my unmarked new bat under my arm and simply carried on walking, away from the pavilion and straight towards the trees and, beyond them, a railway line… It took me a good half hour to calm down and return to the warm, sympathetic and supporting (yeah, right) bosom of my teammates. The general consensus among them was that I had gone and ended it all on the railway line, so they were a little surprised to see me.

Mind you, that was not the most bizarre duck in our club’s history. That dubious honor belongs to our career leader, who shall remain nameless. He’s a decent enough batsman, but a very poor starter, largely through a reluctance to, how shall I put it, play himself in… Back in 2002, our friend had a string of 3 consecutive first ball ducks which, as one might expect, was starting to get to him more than a little – as in, “what the #### is the matter with me, what do I do now?”. Cometh the next innings, he was a total wreck waiting to go into to bat. For once, we were actually quite sympathetic to a teammate’s misery, and offered sage advice such as: “Look, mate, unless you are totally sure the first ball is gun barrel straight and hitting middle, just stand there and do nothing! Odds are it will miss!” So, our friend goes into bat, the bowler serves up a really wide half volley and what does he do? Poke it gently to cover… We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But we did have the sense to not say anything when our buddy came back and sat amongst us – we just handed him a beer, and then another one, and another…

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2 Responses to "Ducking out of life"
  1. Nikhil Puri
    Reply Nikhil Puri March 11, 2012 17:05 pm

    haha what happened in this career duck leader’s next game, a.k.a. 5th innings? was it also a duck or was he able to break free from his misery?

    • Moore
      Reply Moore March 12, 2012 02:33 am

      Got off the mark first ball and scored 41 off 62 balls – a good bounce back!