Friday, 6 January 2012

Why a duck?

Readers can come out of hiding - Fantasy Bob has finished his cricketers' Twelve Days of Christmas and normal disservice is about to be resumed.

Except that he wishes to note that the full set of gifts sent his way by Ms True Love would, in today's money, cost around £65,000.  That would buy a lot of biscuits.

FB was also reflecting that although Ms True Love seems poultry and bird obsessed, she does not light upon the bird most commonly associated with cricket.  Perhaps this reflects her great sensitivity for no cricketer likes to be reminded of failure and embarrassment.  A gift of a duck would be to rub salt in the wound.

But there are some cricketers who are even more familiar with the duck than FB.  In 185 Test innings, Courtney Walsh made 43 ducks. In 138 innings, Glen McGrath failed to trouble the scorers 35  times.  When you add other international cricket the record is held by Muttiah Muralitharan who had 59 ducks in all forms of international cricket - 33 in Tests, 25 in ODIs and one in a T20 international.  Courtney Walsh, the  had 11 ODI ducks so his overall total is 54.

There is only one other player with 50 international ducks but he appeared at the opposite end of the batting order. Sanath Jayasuriya had 15 in Tests, 34 in ODIs and 4 in T20s.

But the overall duck master in first class cricket is Reg Perks of Worcestershire and England who made 156 ducks in 884 visits to the crease between 1930 and 1955.  Perks was a classic tailender - his highest score of 75 was completed in less than 30 minutes and 3 times he hit 3 consecutive sixes.  He was the first professional captain of Worcestershire.

Why a duck?  The suggestion is that the shape of the number 0 is similar to that of a duck's egg - but it is similar to any other egg so this is hardly definitive.   A newspaper report of 17 July 1866 on a cricket match in which the Prince of Wales's (the future Edward VII) scored nought says that the Prince 'retired to the royal pavilion on a duck's egg'.

But if this answers the question why an egg, it still doesn't answer the question why a duck?  And this great sequence from the Marx Brothers doesn't really help.

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