Of ducks and drakes
Ah, The Duck – nothing troubles the scorers more, despite what any commentator may tell you. Especially if it is a quick one and you are still entering all the details of the previous wicket. A duck is almost as much of a symbol of non-batsmanship as scoring a century is of batting ability.
In 1996, Danny Morrison passed the record for most ducks in Test cricket amid a blaze of publicity and memorabilia. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar had held the record with 23 at that stage. Morrison subsequently passed the baton (if you will excuse the truly abysmal pun) to Courtney Walsh, who still holds the record with 43. Muttiah Murailtharan has been dismissed first ball for a duck on no fewer than 14 occasions in Test cricket.
But, what about ducks in first-class cricket? Reg Perks, of Worcestershire and England (twice, in 1939), collected 156 ducks in his first-class career, which is a record. Perks was not the world’s worst batsman: he scored 8956 runs, including 14 fifties, at an average of 12.20 in 595 first-class matches.
But a major candidate for champion duck maker in first-class cricket is Kevin Jarvis of Kent and Gloucestershire. Jarvis is the only batsman with over 100 dismissals in first-class cricket to have ducks as more than 50% of his dismissals. In his 199 first-class innings he was not out 87 times and made 59 ducks, which represents 52.69% of the total innings in which he was dismissed. In all, Jarvis scored 403 runs at an average of 3.59. He did, of course, make up for this by taking 674 wickets. He reached 20 for the first, and only, time in his 255th first-class match (Gloucestershire v Hampshire at Portsmouth in 1989) and played only 5 more matches before retiring.
And what of Seymour Clark? He played 5 first-class matches for Somerset (all in 1930) and in 9 innings (two of which were not outs) he did not score a run. He did not take a wicket either. He was a wicketkeeper and presumably must have been a very good one just to get a game.
Then there is the 1, the much-neglected score. If a century is a mark of batting excellence and a duck is a mark of batting ineptitude, then a 1 must be the non-batsman’s equivalent of 99. I briefly considered nominating the word ‘drake’ for ones to go with ducks for noughts. But it would probably be considered inappropriate, in these egalitarian times, for the male of the species to represent a higher value than the female.
The most dismissals for 1 in Test cricket is 12 by Javagal Srinath and Glenn McGrath.
Three players have been dismissed for 1 eleven times in Tests: Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and, surprisingly, Rod Marsh. And Adam Sanford was an impressive 1-maker. He was dismissed eight times for 1 out of his 15 Test dismissals (53.33%), including each of his last 4 innings. Then there’s Walter Reader-Blackton. In addition to having a name that was almost as long as his first-class career (8 matches for Derbyshire between 1914 and 1921), he was also the first player to be dismissed for 1 in five consecutive first-class innings.
And another world record for Shane Warne. He has been dismissed for 2 more often than anyone else in Test cricket – 11 times.