Morrison assumes title of ultimate tail-ender

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The Independent Online
Danny Morrison's 152 Test wickets place him second only to Sir Richard Hadlee among New Zealand cricket's most successful bowlers, but it is for another contribution to the international record book that the 30-year-old quickie from Auckland is celebrated today.

Yesterday in St John's, Antigua, on day two of the second Test, Morrison was dismissed lbw without scoring by Curtly Ambrose as New Zealand struggled to construct a reply to a massive West Indies total.

Nothing unusual about that, except that it was the 24th duck of Morrison's 69 Test innings, which means that he now holds a world record, surpassing the 23 noughts by the Indian leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar between 1963 and 1979.

It is something that should be celebrated. In an age in which the emphasis on achievement, excellence and winning is more intense than ever - often at the expense of fun - Morrison will find himself an unwitting symbol for those who cherish more old-fashioned values.

He is living proof that, no matter how much coaches and managers strive to infuse cricket with fully focused professionalism, it is still possible for the genuine tail-ender, the man for whom the bat is merely something to lean on while the other fellow does all the work, to reach the highest level and stay there.

To have done so, as Morrison has, is all the more laudable because the authentic tail-ender is a dying breed, pushed to the brink of extinction by zealous coaches, who seem to feel that a species once left to concentrate on its own, highly demanding bowling role ought to be scoring 20 or 30 runs as well, not to mention running about in the field. Another grim legacy of the one-day game.

The odd rabbit can still be spotted around the county circuit - Mark Robinson of Northamptonshire and now Yorkshire comes first to mind - but although Pat Pocock succumbed to four consecutive ducks against the West Indies in 1984, there has probably not been a traditional No 11 picked regularly for England since Mike Hendrick disappeared in the 1980s, following a glorious Test career in which he averaged 6.40 in 35 innings, reached double figures only four times and never progressed beyond 15.

Morrison, it should be pointed out, did once make 42, against Pakistan in 1994, and even boasts an unbeaten 26 during the current series. Otherwise his membership of the tail-enders' union bears any examination, underscored by an average that even those comparatively Bradmanesque scores boost only to 7.98. Nor can he blame physical impediment, unlike the unfortunate Chandrasekhar, who overcame the handicap of an arm withered by childhood polio.

Not every rabbit revels in being labelled as such. When the local paper, acknowledging Robinson's world record 12 consecutive noughts for Northamptonshire, headlined their story by attaching 11 extra "O's" to his nickname, Robbo, the player was decidedly unamused, pointing out in strong terms that several of the noughts were not out.

Happily, Morrison sees the lighter side of his feat, with plans already to auction a commemorative tie during his benefit season for Auckland this year. "I can't see myself making money out of a bat contract," he said, "so I'm going to put out a special tie identifying the venues of all my ducks."

There may yet be time for him to acquire - or at least equal - another world record. Chandrasekhar's other claim to batting fame is to have bagged a Test match pair - something which even Graham Gooch and Ian Botham managed once - on four occasions. Morrison, on three, has that mark in his sights as well.