England’s wretched start to the Test series against New Zealand was perhaps best exemplified by Kevin Pietersen’s golden duck. The batsman simply didn’t pick up a fuller ball from Neil Wagner, misjudged the length, and was plumb lbw.
The dismissal represented KP’s 10th duck – and half of those have been first-ballers. It's still a little way short of the world record - 14 - held by Muttiah Muralitharan, or indeed the England record of 9 by Steve Harmison, but for a recognised batsman it's a high figure, and a high ratio. Mark Waugh, with seven golden ducks in 128 Tests, is the leading 'batsman' in this dubious category.
None of Pietersen’s golden ducks have come in losing causes – yet – and in fact some have occurred in some of the most memorable Test matches of recent times.
The match: England v Australia, Third Test, Old Trafford 2005
Scorecard: Pietersen lbw b McGrath 0(1) - in at 224-3 in second innings, out at 225-4 two balls later
The dismissal: Glen McGrath sprung a surprise with a yorker around the stumps, which KP scarcely saw coming out of the hand
The context: England, having eked out a famous two-run win at Edgbaston, were level in the series and pushing for a lead. Pietersen, who had been amassing half-centuries with style and taken the fight to the Australians, was in confident mood. The dismissal was a blow, but England had a big first-innings lead already and were only looking to set Australia a target. They added another 55 runs before declaring, Australia saved the Test with one wicket to spare.
The match: England v Pakistan, Fourth Test, The Oval 2006
Scorecard: Pietersen c Akmal b Asif 0(1) – in at 54-2 in first innings, out at 54-3
The dismissal: Mohammad Asif offered a full-pitched ball and Pietersen can only edge it behind to the wicketkeeper
The context: An extraordinary Test. The series was already decided, with England winning by huge margins at Old Trafford and Headingley to take a 2-0 lead. But KP’s exit was part of a disappointing first innings in which England were bundled out for 173. Pakistan piled on 504, and while Pietersen added 96 in the second innings as England fought for a draw, the game looked to be slipping away. But after Pakistan were accused of ball-tampering by Umpire Darrell Hair they refused to come out and play after the tea break, and the game was ultimately awarded to England.
The match: England v West Indies, First Test, Lord’s 2009
Scorecard: Pietersen c Ramdin b Edwards 0(1) – in at 92-2 in first innings, out at 92-3
The dismissal: Vicious full ball from paceman Fidel Edwards, shaping away and taken one-handed by Dinesh Ramdin behind the stumps.
The context: Ravi Bopara’s 143 steered England to 377 in the first innings, and the tourists were no match for England in the early summer seaming conditions. Graeme Onions took 5-38 as the West Indies were forced to follow on, and though they fared better in the second innings, England still won by 10 wickets inside three days.
The match: England v Pakistan, Fourth Test, Lord’s 2010
Scorecard: Pietersen c Akmal b Amir 0(1) – in at 39-2 in first innings, out five minutes and six balls later at 39-3.
The dismissal: Not a great ball as much as poor batting. Pietersen chased a wide ball without moving his feet and found himself caught behind.
The context: England were in a huge mess at the time. They slipped to 47-5 and then 102-7 before an extraordinary partnership between Jonathan Trott (184) and Stuart Broad (169) worth 332 runs turned England’s fortunes around. Pakistan folded in their first innings for just 74, and they slumped to a hefty innings defeat – but the match was more memorable for what followed, when the News of the World revealed that 19-year-old Mohammad Amir (who took Pietersen’s wicket), Mohamed Asif and Salman Butt were all involved in spot-fixing during that innings – arranging the deliberate bowling of no balls for money. All three were jailed in the UK in 2011.
The match: New Zealand v England, First Test, Dunedin 2013
Scorecard: Pietersen lbw b Wagner 0(1) – in at 18-2, out at 18-3 in first innings
The dismissal: Full straight from the left-arm seamer around the wicket, with Pietersen struggling to pick the ball up and too slow to get his bat down.
The context: One of England’s worst days of Test cricket in living memory – on a benign pitch the unfancied New Zealanders skittled England out for 167, then almost wiped that lead out in its entirety before stumps. Whether England can undo the damage they have done to themselves remains to be seen.