Why a Zero Score by a Batsman Is Called a Duck?
The term is a shortening of “duck’s egg”, which was used long before cricket began. When referring to the Prince of Wales’ (the future Edward VII) score of nought on July 17, 1866, a contemporary newspaper wrote that the Prince “retired to the royal pavilion on a ‘duck’s egg’” because the shape of the number “0” is similar to that of a duck’s egg, as in the case of the American slang term “goose-egg” popular in baseball and the tennis term “love,” derived from French l’oeuf (“the egg”). The Concise Oxford Dictionary still cites “duck’s egg” as an alternative version of the term.
The first duck in a Test match was made in the very first Test, between Australia and England at Melbourne in March 1877, when Ned Gregory was caught by Andrew Greenwood off the bowling of James Lillywhite. As of 2017, the record for the most ducks in Test cricket is held by West Indies player Courtney Walsh, who was out for nought on 43 occasions, while the overall first-class record is 156, set by Worcestershire and England player Reg Perks.
One particularly high-profile example of a duck came in 1948, when Don Bradman was playing his final Test match for Australia, against England at The Oval. In Australia’s first innings, Bradman was bowled for a duck by Eric Hollies, causing his Test average to fall from 101.39 to 99.94; had he scored just four runs, his average would have been 100. As things turned out, Australia won the match by an innings, and so Bradman did not get to bat a second time (had he batted, he would have needed at least 104 runs if dismissed or at least four runs if not out to get his average back to 100).
In the first Test of Australia’s tour of India in 1986, with the cumulative scores tied, Indian tailender Maninder Singh was trapped LBW by Greg Matthews for a four ball duck, ensuring just the second tied Test in Test Cricket history.
Indian all-rounder Ajit Agarkar earned the unfortunate nickname “Bombay Duck” after being dismissed for ducks five consecutive times in test matches against Australia.
In a 1913 match against Glastonbury, Huish and Langport’s batsmen all scored ducks for a total of zero runs. A similar occurrence in indoor cricket happened in 2016, when Bapchild Cricket Club were dismissed for zero against Christ Church University.
On January 30, 2017 tailender Josh Hazlewood (Aus) became the first player to be dismissed for a diamond duck in a partnership of more than fifty runs. He was run out at the non-striker’s end without facing a delivery.
There are several variations used to describe specific types of duck. The usage or prevalence of many of these terms vary regionally, with one term having different meanings in different parts of the world. Even within commentary from ESPN Cricinfo or individual cricket board websites, there is no uniform application of some of these terms.
- Players who are dismissed by the first ball they face are said to have been dismissed for a golden duck. This term is applied uniformly throughout the cricket world.
- As an extension of the golden duck, a silver duck and bronze duck can refer to being dismissed for nought on the second ball and third ball respectively.
- A batsman who is dismissed without facing a ball (most usually run out from the non-striker’s end, but alternatively stumped or run out off a wide delivery) is said to be out for a diamond duck, but in some regions that term has an alternative definition.
- An opening batsman who is dismissed on the first ball of a team’s innings is said to be out for a diamond duck, platinum duck or royal duck, depending upon the regional usage.
To be dismissed for nought in both innings of the same two-innings match is to be dismissed for a pair, because the two noughts together are thought to resemble a pair of spectacles; the longer form is occasionally used. To be dismissed first ball in both innings (i.e., two golden ducks) is to suffer the indignity of making a king pair.
A “golden duck” is also known as a “primary”. In 1955 several young members of Beckenham Cricket Club in Kent who had been dismissed first ball that season, formed a club dedicated to supporting a charity to help blind cricketers. The Primary Club has grown into an international charity making annual donations in excess of £100,000 to a variety of schools and clubs for the blind and partially sighted. Their patron is former England and Kent cricketer Derek Underwood MBE. Membership is open to any player who has been dismissed first ball in any game of cricket. Funds are raised through the selling of ties which should be worn on the Saturday of a Test match.