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Dr Ian Plummer

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Duffer's Tice, Anti-Duffer's Tice, the Dream Leave and the Tea Lady

There are a number of openings and leaves which have peculiar names. The question asked on the Nottingham newsgroup was "Can somebody tell me all about duffers and, in particular, anti-duffers". Below is a distillation of the replies. Note that these opening and leaves are generally appropriate to advanced play.

Duffer Tice

Firstly a "Duffer tice" is when the player of the second ball sends it somewhere near hoop 6 [from B-baulk and a little to the east of hoop 6]. It's a tice length but not safe for the 3rd player to shoot at it hard as the miss goes into or near A-baulk. They usually ignore the tice as a trickle at it leaves a double target for the 4th ball. [The opening is named after Duff Matthews, it does not imply it is a bad opening].

Anti-Duffer Tice

The anti-duffer is a manoeuvre by the first player on the first stroke to discourage the Duffer tice on the second. The first stroke is played to somewhere 2 or 3 yards off the East boundary (1 or 2 yards off the yard line) about between Hoop 6 high and peg high. This is supposed to discourage a Duffer tice response. Apparently at that level of play, if a Duffer tice is played after this opening, the player of the 3rd ball has a significant chance of getting a 3-ball break going.

Suppose a Duffer tice is laid and then hit on the third turn. The player will now be taking croquet somewhere south of 6. If the partner ball is a couple of yards off the East boundary, and about halfway up, it is possible to take-off behind this ball, getting a rush to 1. This is much harder if the East boundary ball is on the yardline, and further South.

There is another advantage to the anti-Duffer, if the players are more defensive or not such strong shots. On turn three, instead of shooting at the Duffer (for example, if it's quite long) you can go to corner II. The fourth turn player will now usually shoot hard at the tice. If this hits, there's no easy four ball break, because the oppo balls are separated. However, if it misses, the corner two ball can now shoot at the Duffer, joining with partner if it misses, possibly with a rush into the lawn. Whatever shot is taken on the sixth turn, if it is missed there should be an easy break on the seventh turn.

It's interesting to see that the Duffer tice opening seems to be very common at this year's Mac[Robertson Shield Competition], and the corner II (defensive) opening quite uncommon. Also, despite a few people playing the supershot opening, there haven't been very many third turn breaks.

Dream Leave

A 'Dream Leave' is obtained on the 3rd turn of the game when the player leaves a rush for one of his balls from the maximum position (farthest point from baulk) on the east boundary to the 3rd ball near the maximum position on the west boundary. There is a threat of an easy 3-ball break even if the 4th turn player can hide his ball. It is a common leave after making 9 hoops on the third turn but can also be set if the player hits on the third turn but elects not to make hoops. The defensive flat shot through the infield ball to corner 4 can be difficult to make a break from if hit down to the south boundary.

Alternative description

It is a third turn leave which is essentially a diagonal spread with one ball missing. Typically the striker's ball and partner ball will be near the maximum distance position on the East boundary rather than further South. The opponent's ball can be anywhere near the peg, or towards the West boundary, South of hoop 2. The Dream Leave often arises when the first ball is played to the East boundary, and a second turn tice is laid and then hit. From either a standard or Duffer tice, it is usually possible to play a thick take off to partner, sending opponent to some position as described above. Typically this will be near the peg if it was a Duffer tice, and nearer the West boundary if it was a standard tice. Partner is then hit, and a rush set.

The Tea Lady Shot

At the end of your break to 1-back, in preparation for a sextuple during your next turn, the current conventional leave is to cross wire your opponent at hoop 1, and join up near corner III, with a rush to hoop 2. Ideally The cross wiring at hoop 1 is tight enough to ensure that your opponent can't jump the hoop to hit in. You also want to ensure that each ball is wired from one (and only one) of your balls near III.

This leaves the only shot on the lawn (at another ball) as a 40+ yard shot across the diagonal of the lawn at a single ball target. This shot is known as the tea-lady.

During the NZ Championship Doubles played in Christchurch, quite some time ago. Bob Jackson and Joe Hogan were playing and they were the current World Champion Doubles pair at the time. In order to avoid having a bye, two of the ladies who were there to provide teas, etc. were persuaded to make up the numbers. In their game with Bob & Joe, they were left facing the long shot as described above. The first tea lady stepped up and hit the roquet. Later in the game, either Bob or Joe made the same leave, only to have the second tea lady step up and hit. Hence the Tea Lady Shot.


There once was a chap playing croquet,
Lining up on a ball some way off,
When the tea-lady, pushing her trolley,
Was heard quite distinctly to scoff.

'Twenty-yard shot? It's a doddle'
She said. 'You'll hit it smack on',
And the chap immediately did so,
Completed his innings and won.

Of course, he proposed to the lady
On the grounds of love at first sight.
She studied the tea leaves and took him,
So clearly his tactics were right.

They used to appear at tournaments,
Complete with mallet and urn:
Encouraged by her, he won everything,
But resentment started to burn

In the hearts of all his opponents,
Who, hatching a murderous plot,
One day accidentally machine-gunned her,
And thus was the tea-lady shot.

Jonathan Lamb

See www.jclamb.com for more of this.

Thanks to Rudy Rencoret, Rob Edlin-White, Jonathan Kirby, Richard Hilditch, Malcolm Cawley and Samir Patel

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Updated 28.i.16
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