Saturday, 20 February 2010

Duck definitions

I feel it is inevitable that fairly soon in my playing career I'll be posting here to say that I've been out for a duck, and since I had some vital procrastination to do I've gone to the trouble of preparing some graphics to commemorate the occasion which you'll see below. However, since there seems to be some confusion as to the accepted definition of some types of duck, particularly the diamond duck, I thought I'd set out exactly what I mean when I refer to each term. Hopefully this post will also help those new to the game understand what each term means.

The plain old DUCK
When one refers to a duck it describes a batsman's innings where he was out before he amassed any runs. The term derives from the number zero (0) looking like an egg, and somewhere along the line "a duck's egg" was shortened to simply a "duck". In matches where two innings are played by each side, getting ducks in both innings is known as a Pair, and when batsmen who were out for a duck in their first innings commence their second, commentators often refer to them as being "on a pair".

A bronze duck is one step up from a duck, with silver duck a further step up, and they refer to getting out with no score off the third or second ball faced respectively. These are fairly common types of duck, and I suppose if you're any kind of player you really ought to get more gold, silver and bronze ducks than plain ducks, as otherwise you're waiting too long to get off the mark. More often than not commentators dispatch with the silver and bronze preface, but the terms exist so one might as well use them.
Incidentally the most famous silver duck in history was the final test innings of Sir Donald Bradman, leaving him four runs short of a three figure average.

A golden duck is probably the most famous of ducks, and is defined as a batman getting out from the first ball he faces. This is also reasonably common, and whenever a bowler takes a hat-trick (three wickets in three consecutive balls) then unless it is spread across more than one over it will include at least two and possibly three golden ducks. Similarly to the plain duck, in matches where two innings are played the act of picking up golden ducks in both innings is known as a King Pair.

Now this is the term that is the most confused. When I was at school I always understood this to mean a dismissal first ball of the match, and many people adhere to this definition, but many others also use it to describe the most loathsome, desperate, and mercifully rare of dismissals: out without facing a ball. It follows on logically that bronze, silver, gold and diamond represent dismissals after 3, 2, 1 and 0 balls faced so I'll adopt this usage.
Now to the uninitiated it may be unclear exactly how it's possible to be out without facing a ball, but it's perfectly possible. Usually it involves being run out, and I'd anticipate that I may be confronted with the need to run myself out to save the wicket of a more competent batsman at some point in the season. Hopefully that point won't come before I've faced a ball, but I am fully prepared if called upon to perform an act of useless sacrifice...
For the sake of completeness I should add that the extremely rare dismissal of "Timed Out", where the incoming batsman takes too long to appear, automatically qualifies the victim for a diamond duck.

ROYAL DUCK (a.k.a Platinum Duck)
The Royal duck is a rare variant of the golden duck, and it means that not only did the victim succumb to his first delivery, but that it was also the first ball of the innings. The name derives from the occasion in 1866 when the then Prince of Wales opened the batting and was dismissed first ball, as the Daily Times correspondent for the Otago Witness recorded thus:
Next, we see the Prince of Wales in the field, as one of the Zingari, against the Gentlemen of Norfolk. H.R.H. had the honour of performing short-leg duties previously to handling the bat, and, when at length expectant eyes were fixed on Britain's heir at the wicket, it was piteous to behold his signal failure; he was bowled cut on the instant, and retired to the royal pavilion on "a duck's egg".
Much more recently, Andrew Strauss was the victim of a Royal duck in the first innings of the 4th Test against South Africa, and since he was the captain he thus further qualifies himself as a "Royal Turkey".

Just to give an idea of the relative frequency of the different types of duck, in the 9 test matches played over the winter there were  13 plain ducks, 5 bronze ducks, 7 silver ducks, 9 golden ducks, no diamond ducks and Strauss's Royal duck.

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