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The Ten: Legendary Noughts

cricket duck
by Wisden Staff 15 minute read

Forget success – failure is the real story. Introducing the 10 finest and most notorious ducks in the history of the game…

10) Ian Botham
ENGLAND v Australia, Lord’s, 1981


“I’ll show you, you bastards.” This was Beefy’s first thought as the then England captain sloped past the Lord’s members having bagged his second duck of the match. Looking for quick runs to set up a declaration, Botham had just been bowled round his legs going for a big sweep, but it was the stony reaction that really got the man riled. Relations between Beef and the blazers would never fully recover as Botham was removed as captain at the end of the match. Still, the next Test was at Headingley. Beefy had a point to prove. It’s fair to say he made it.

9) Maninder Singh
INDIA v Australia, Madras, 1986


As a man who racked up 11 blobs in 38 Test innings at an average of 3.80, India’s guileful twirler was not unaccustomed to batting disappointment and his woeful willow-wielding took its place in history when for the second time in 1,052 matches a Test finished tied. After Ravi Shastri stole a single to leave the scores level, Maninder had two deliveries from Greg Matthews to negotiate. “I was positive I could get the single and win the match,” said Maninder. His optimism was admirable but ultimately unfounded as he was trapped in front to leave the scores all-square.

8) Graham Gooch
ENGLAND v Australia, Edgbaston, 1975

In life, ‘a pair’ equals togetherness, companionship, shared experience. From love to trousers, a pair is best. Except in cricket. In cricket a pair means pain, squared. It’s the lowest of the low for a batsman. Not only incapable of edging one onto the thigh pad for a filthy scampered single, but incapable twice. Graham Gooch picked up a pair on his Test debut – the second duck a dirty strangle down the leg side – and only played one more match before being cast out for three years. He did okay when he came back, mind…

7) Peter Judge
GLAMORGAN v
 The Indians,
 Cardiff Arms Park, 1946


The former RAF pilot and Glammy paceman takes his place in this list by virtue of being dismissed for nought twice, by successive deliveries from Indian offie Chandu Sarwate, all inside a minute. After Judge was last man out in Glamorgan’s first innings the tourists forced the follow on and, with little time left in the day, skipper Johnnie Clay decided to give the home crowd some entertainment, reversing the batting order and waiving the 10-minute interval between innings. Judge stayed where he was, took a fresh guard, and was promptly bowled again.

6) Virender Sehwag
England v INDIA, Edgbaston, 2011


Having been royally thumped in the first two Tests, India were banking on the return of their most formidable weapon to turn the tables in the battle to be crowned No.1. Sehwag was coming in cold after a shoulder injury and looked to be carrying a few extra pounds, but MS Dhoni was backing his heavy artillery to fire. “He just needs to play his natural game,” said the Indian captain at the toss and Sehwag took his skipper’s advice in the most literal sense. After gloving behind in the first dig he wafted wildly in the second to become the 13th batsman to register a king pair in Tests.

5) Don Bradman
England v AUSTRALIA, The Oval, 1948


The most famous and emotionally overwrought nought of all time, and all the grander for it. Bradman, the machine, was rendered so floppy and tearful by the ovation that greeted his final march to the middle in a Test match that he could barely take guard after all the pats and handshakes. “I don’t expect to get a wicket,” said John Arlott on commentary, as he settled himself in. Bradman needed four for a career average of 100, don’t you know. “Hollies tosses the ball up slowly, and… He’s… Bowled?” Arlott the great orator was stunned into a 15-second silence, as were the England team. Finally Arlott gathered himself: “Bradman. Bowled. Hollies, Nought. Bowled Hollies. Nought. What can you say?” So much more poetic to retire on 99.94, the moment proved the machine was human after all.

4) John Abrahams
LANCASHIRE v Warwickshire,
 Lord’s, 1984

Man of the Match for ‘captaincy’. “For holding his nerve in impossibly tight situations, for making pinpoint calls at just the right time and for waving his arms about convincingly, the award goes to Lancashire’s inspirational leader, John Abrahams…” Never mind that he hadn’t bowled a ball or managed to score a run, bagging a blob to leave Lancashire tottering on 71-4 chasing 139, his stewardship was clearly a triumph of Churchillian magnitude over and above any such vulgar act as someone actually doing something.

3) Keith Miller
Essex v AUSTRALIA, Southend, 1948


Disgusted by his captain’s insatiable lust for runs and instinctively on the side of the paying public, in this case all 32,000 of them, the great entertainer Keith Miller walked out against Essex with the scoreboard reading 364-2. The crowd was restless, bored and uppity. Bradman had already notched his century, and three others would follow suit in a ridiculous final total of 721 from 129 overs. But in the midst of the slaughter Miller was merciful, shouldering arms to his first delivery from Trevor Bailey and allowing himself to be bowled. Seeing the stumps broken, Miller turned to the Essex wicketkeeper and said, “Thank God that’s over”.

2) Peter Such
ENGLAND v New Zealand, Old Trafford, 1999

‘Screaming’ Pete Such [pictured above] may be better known these days as the ECB’s head spin coach, but in his pomp he was a purveyor of beautiful off breaks and thrillingly inept batsmanship. As the sporadic clown-soldier of Nineties England’s lower-order, Such briefly threatened Eddie the Eagle’s position as England’s favourite sporting have-a-go-hero, with a concoction of cluelessness and courage so irresistible that upon watching him block, grope at, wear and swallow 51 balls for no return against New Zealand in what ended up as his last Test match, the man waddled off to a raucous standing ovation from the Manc faithful. Quite right too.

1) Viv Richards
ANTIGUA v St Kitts,
 St John’s Recreation Ground, 1969


The boy-genius was already the angel of Antigua. Selected for the national side as a 17-year-old, 6,000 locals came out in force. Viv went in three, “verbally assaulting” – his words – the opposition as he walked out. So cocky was Viv that when his first delivery popped up to short leg and the umpire raised the finger, the boy refused to shift. Only after a few minutes did he start to drag himself off, by which time the crowd had turned restive. The authorities panicked. In an extraordinary move, they reinstated Viv, but the boy, spangled by this point, was duly stumped first ball. In the second innings he bagged another nought – his third of the match. Finally, in another crazy about-about-turn, the authorities who had earlier insisted he return to the field to bat again, slapped him with a two-year ban. Richards served his time, learnt how to box, and returned with a ton for Antigua in his comeback match.

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