January 16, 2012

Thank you for not troubling the scorers

When batsmen made getting out for zero memorable

Don Bradman
Surely the most famous duck of them all happened at The Oval in 1948, when Bradman, in what turned out to be his last Test innings, was deceived second ball by a googly from the Warwickshire and England spinner Eric Hollies. Suggestions that the great man had a tear in his eye were always denied by Bradman, who pointed out that he didn't know that it was definitely his last innings and, in those less statty days, didn't know he needed only four runs for an average of 100 either.

Ajit Agarkar
The Indian fast bowler Agarkar was a good enough tail-end thumper to score a Test century at Lord's, something that eluded his rather more illustrious Mumbai team-mates Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. But Agarkar's most famous batting achievement remains his five successive ducks against Australia during the 1999-2000 Test series, when he was dismissed by four successive balls, before, in Sydney, surviving his first delivery to raucous applause from the crowd. They were even happier when he nicked the next one and was caught behind, his fifth successive duck. The only others to achieve the "Olympic rings" in Tests are the Australian Bob Holland and Mohammad Asif of Pakistan.

Geoff Allott
It doesn't look much in the scorecard: Allott c Pollock b Kallis 0. But that was a record-breaking duck - it lasted for 101 minutes and 77 balls, both Test records, for New Zealand against South Africa in Auckland in 1998-99. New Zealand added another 32 runs while Allott was entrenched, and the time he used up proved to be very important in the end as they hung on for a draw in their second innings.

Greg Chappell
Normally one of the most stylish of batsmen, Chappell suffered a nightmare trot in 1981-82, collecting seven ducks in the home international season, including four in a row at one stage. This led to a temporary new nickname: for years he had been shown as CHAPPELL G on Australia's big scoreboards, to distinguish him from his brother. Ian Chappell was known for most of his career as CHAPPELLI because of this - but now Greg was being called CHAPPELLO.

Romesh Kaluwitharana
The diminutive wicketkeeper Kaluwitharana was usually an explosive batsman, famed for his rate of scoring: on his Test debut, against Australia in August 1992, he smacked a rapid 132 not out. But in the one-day Singer Cup final against Pakistan in Singapore in April 1996, he was little more than a spectator in an opening partnership with Sanath Jayasuriya: "Kalu" was out for a duck, having faced only 11 balls, with the scoreboard already showing 70.

Ian Botham
Botham had already recorded a few high-profile ducks, including two in what turned out to be his final Test as captain, at Lord's during the 1981 Ashes (before the heroics of Headingley). But arguably his most famous batting failure came in the 1992 World Cup final, when, promoted as a pinch-hitting opener, he was given out caught behind before he'd scored, off the bowling of Wasim Akram. Botham swore (probably literally) that he hadn't hit it, and his mood wasn't improved when the combative Aamer Sohail - one of many Pakistanis unimpressed by an earlier Botham jibe that Pakistan was a good place to send your mother-in-law - suggested that he'd better get his mother-in-law out to bat as she might do better.

Maninder Singh
Left-arm spinner Maninder wasn't much of a batsman, and proved it by getting out when India, needing just one to win, instead tied their Test match against Australia in Madras in 1986-87. It was only the second tie in Test history, not that that was much consolation to Maninder, who remains convinced that he wasn't out.

Don Bradman (again)
As the storm clouds gathered over the 1932-33 Bodyline series, Australia held its collective breath as Bradman - who missed the first Test because of illness - strode out to bat in the second, in Melbourne. His first ball was - surprise, surprise - a bouncer, and he tried to hook: but somehow he got a bottom edge and pulled the ball down behind him, into his stumps. England's captain, Douglas Jardine, danced a jig of delight as the Don trudged back towards the shocked crowd, and the pattern of the series was well and truly set. Oddly, the bowler, Yorkshire's Bill Bowes, didn't take another wicket in the Bodyline series - but his one victim was a notable one.

Jim Higgs
The Victoria legspinner Higgs created a slice of unwanted history in 1975 by facing just one ball on an Ashes tour - against Leicestershire at Grace Road - and being dismissed by it (bowled by Chris Balderstone). Another spinner, Kenya's Shem Ngoche, surpassed Higgs' feat during the 2011 World Cup, when he faced three balls in the tournament and failed to lay bat on any of them, being bowled by two and lbw to the other one.

Keith Stackpole
The attacking Australian opener Stackpole already knew he was playing his last Test when he opened the innings on the first morning in Auckland in March 1974. His first innings lasted just one ball: he deflected a high full toss from Richard Hadlee - still rather wild and woolly in those days - straight to John Parker at slip. Stackpole was philosophical enough to wonder whether anyone had ever previously been out in a Test without the ball ever having touched the ground, and his sense of humour was further tested in the second innings when he completed a farewell pair, out seventh ball this time: "What a way to go!"

Garry Sobers
In a taste of things to come, West Indies steamrollered England in 1966. Going into the fifth and final Test, they were 3-0 up. England made several team changes for The Oval, and also called up their third captain of the summer, Brian Close. His opposite number, Sobers, had dominated the series, scoring 641 runs and taking 17 wickets in the first four Tests. In the last one he made another 81 but, after a spirited England fightback, came out in the second innings with his team still some way behind. His first ball was a short one from John Snow. Wisden relates: "Sobers tried to hook this gift, only to give his rival captain a simple catch." What that doesn't tell you is that Close was perilously close in at short leg, and most other fielders there would have dived for cover when they saw Sobers - previously in such magisterial form - shaping up for his stroke. But Close just stayed still and took the catch, and England went on to win by an innings.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.

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