It’s one of those terms cricket fans and players use all the time that probably makes us sound a bit crazy to those who don’t know the sport.
What is a duck in cricket and what are the origins of this unusual term?
You might have even seen some of the animations that come up on the screen when a player is “out for a Duck” and wondered what it means.
Or even the different types of ducks you can experience whilst playing cricket.
Well, wonder no longer.
What is a Duck?
A Duck is simply when a batter is out without scoring any runs. They leave the field with a zero next to their name. It’s the worst-case scenario for batsmen taking to the crease, gone without troubling the scorers.
There are lots of other types of Duck in cricket. Some words prefix the term “Duck” so if you are wondering what a “golden Duck” in cricket is, we’ve explored all the different varieties later in this post.
Why is it Called a Duck?
It’s not immediately obvious why it should be called a Duck, but there is a pretty strong theory behind the name.
Most people think it came from the fact that the number “0” (the score of the batter) looks like a Duck’s egg. The oval shape of a zero is the culprit for the unusual name. Eventually, people started abbreviating the “Duck’s egg” to being “out for a Duck” and the term stuck.
Did you know that in baseball, there is a term called a “goose egg” for when a batter is out without scoring? It’s the same principle. Some people even think that the term “love” in tennis comes from the French l’œuf which translates to “the egg”.
Other Types of Duck
So what does it mean when someone gets a golden Duck or even diamond Duck in cricket? There are a few types of Duck to know about if you want to keep up with the cricket lingo.
This happens a surprising amount. This is when a batter gets out on the first ball they face without scoring any runs. The term is used regularly in cricket, and of course, the “Golden” part comes from the idea of coming “first” which is the position in which you’d get a gold medal at the Olympics.
So, with that in mind, the next two will make more sense as well.
Second place, the Silver Duck. This means getting out without scoring any runs on the second ball. Remember that it is only a Duck if they get out with a zero next to their name.
You don’t hear Silver Duck as much as you do golden Duck. It seems not as many people care about second place, but it is a legitimate phrase that commentators do sometimes use.
Sounds like a decorative item you might find in your home, right? A Bronze Duck is rare to hear, even when compared to Silver Duck. It’s a real term, but most people would just say “Duck” at this point.
I’m sure you’ve worked it out, but a bronze Duck means getting out third ball without scoring any runs.
Royal or Platinum Duck
Some people use this term for when batters get out on the first ball of a team’s innings, rather than their own personal innings. Naturally, it only applies to whoever is opening the batting.
If you get out on the first ball of the day, you know your luck is out. The “Royal Duck” or “Platinum Duck” is what a commentator will sometimes call this. After they’ve stopped laughing, of course.
What’s even more impressive than a golden Duck? A Diamond Duck. This is a relatively rare occurrence, but it does happen from time to time.
A Diamond Duck in cricket is when a batsman gets dismissed before they have even faced a ball. They’re out with a zero in the runs column and with zero legitimate balls faced. How?
Well, it can happen in a few different ways. If a batter is bowled a wide ball (so not a legitimate delivery) and they are run out off this delivery (which is allowed) then they will be out without facing a legal ball.
In T20 matches, it isn’t that uncommon to see this as the batting team are just trying to score quickly.
The batsman that isn’t on strike can be given out in some scenarios, such as if they are “Obstructing the Field” which is, for instance, when a batter thinks they’re going to be run out and deliberately blocks the throw with their bat.
There is another way this can happen, too. The batter can be “timed out”. This is incredibly rare and has only happened a handful of times in first class games.
As explained by the Lords website, the rules state that: “After the fall of a wicket or the retirement of a batter, the incoming batter must, unless Time has been called, be in position to take guard or for the other batter to be ready to receive the next ball within 3 minutes of the dismissal or retirement.” Not in place? The umpire can give you out before you’ve even reached your crease.
It is sometimes said that a batsman that gets out for a Duck on the last ball of the team’s innings is out for a “Laughing Duck”. This could be because of the graphics that TV networks put on the screen to accompany the batter while they walk back to the pavilion, but nobody knows for sure.
A “Pair” and “King Pair”
While some of the terms listed above are only used in rare circumstances, a “Pair” and a “King Pair” get used quite a lot.
For example, you might hear a commentator saying that a batter is “on a Pair” when they start their innings.
In the formats of cricket where each batter may get to bat twice (two separate innings) then these terms come into play.
A Pair is when you are out for a Duck in both of the innings of a match. Whether they’re golden Ducks, silver Ducks, or you’ve stayed out there and blocked for 48 balls before you get out, it is still called a Pair.
Obviously, you’d be forgiven for thinking the term just comes from a “pair of Ducks”. This isn’t the case. The two zeros are said to look like a pair of spectacles, which is thought to be the origin of the term. Henry Blofeld can sometimes be heard referring to two Ducks as a “Pair of spectacles”.
A King Pair
A King Pair is the term given to a batter getting two Golden Ducks in an innings. Your luck is truly out when you don’t even manage to face more than two balls in two innings of a match.
You would think that this is a really rare phenomenon, but actually there are a lot of examples of King Pairs in cricket including some from very high-profile players, usually bowlers, so we can let them off. Sam Curran, James Anderson, and Adam Gilchrist are among those who are stuck with the tag of having got out for King Pairs in test cricket. Virender Sehwag too, which is perhaps more surprising.
Who Has The Most Ducks in Test Cricket?
It’s one of those interesting areas to look into, but actually, it doesn’t mean that much! A lot of batters get out for a Duck when they’re trying to add some quick runs at the end of an innings, for example.
This table from Howstat shows the five international players with the most test match Ducks.
|1||C A Walsh||West Indies||132||185||61||936||30*||0||7.55||43||4|
|2||S C J Broad*||England||167||243||40||3662||169||1||18.04||39||1|
|3||C S Martin||New Zealand||71||104||52||123||12*||0||2.37||36||7|
|4||G D McGrath||Australia||124||138||51||641||61||0||7.37||35||3|
|5||S K Warne||Australia||145||199||17||3154||99||0||17.33||34||2|
Perhaps more interestingly, lower on the list are players like Steve Waugh, who, in spite of a really impressive average, managed to get out for a Duck on 22 occasions. This makes that average even more of an achievement.
No one likes a duck in cricket, except maybe the bowler
So now you know what a Duck is, and the origin of the term, as well as all of the different variations.
In truth, you’ll hear “Duck” and “Golden Duck” more than you hear the other terms, and “Pair” and “King Pair” in certain forms of the game.
A Diamond Duck is rare, but it just might crop up in your years of watching and playing cricket.