July 4, 2003

Havant's Chris Wright signs for Middlesex Academy

Havant teenager Chris Wright has signed an Academy contract with Middlesex - after spending the past seven years as a promising all-rounder in Hampshire junior cricles.

Wright, 17, who joined Havant from Liphook & Ripsley at the start of this season, will officially join Middlesex in October when he goes up to Cambridge to read Sports Science.

But he will be given the opportunity to play Under-19, Under-21 and may be Second XI Championship cricket for the London county for the remainder of this summer.

Middlesex Academy coach Toby Radford, who plays Southern Electric Premier League cricket for Andover, has snapped Wright up from under Hampshire's noses.

"I've played against Chris in the Premier League for the past two seasons and have been very impressed with his ability as an all-rounder," he said. "As a bowler, he's got good air speed and a fluent pace bowler's run up.

"The shortage of genuine bowling all-rounders in this country is well chronicled and, if he continues to work at his game, Chris has the chance to fill one of the voids.

Radford, who struck a superb 139 for Andover only to narrowly miss out on victory at Bashley (Rydal) last weekend, also rates Wright's batting credentials.

"He showed undoubted ability as an batsman with Liphook, but now he's joined a far stronger side at Havant, he's having to go in well down the order, which is not beneficial to his development.

"I'd like to see Havant bat him much higher," he added.

Wright, who initially played for HSCA as a 13-year old and who appeared for Hampshire YC's in last season's ECB Under-19 County Championship final, will split his time at Cambridge studying and playing cricket.

"Chris will be part of the Cambridge UCCE set up, which means he'll work with us and Andy Pick over the winter and, if all goes well, play in the University's early season matches against the counties," Radford added.

Wright, whose father Alan plays for Hampshire Over-50s, got a taste of UCCE cricket earlier this season when he made one `guest' appearance for Cambridge against Nottinghamshire.

Radford added : "Initially, Chris has got a one-year Academy deal at Middlesex, but if he does well, there's the incentive for that contract to be extended.

"In the meantime, though, I've no problem in him carrying on playing for Havant - though I wuld like to see him get more opportunities to bat."

News of Wright's switch to Middlesex is expected to raise questions among Hampshire followers why promising young Premier League cricketers are defecting elsewhere to further their careers.

In the past two years, Bournemouth's Chris Park has signed for Northants, Hampshire Under-19 captain Steve Snell and BAT's Damian Shirazi have joined the MCC Young Cricketers on the Lord's groundstaff, and now Wright is going to Middlesex.

Before that, Bournemouth's Owen Parkin joined Glamorgan and Winchester pace bowler Billy Taylor was signed by Sussex, where he currently opens the bowling in limited-over matches.

Park scooped two prestigious `young cricketer' awards in his first season at Northants, while Shirazi has been in superb batting form for the MCC YC's, hitting recent centuries against Essex and Yorkshire 2nd XIs and making 73 against a powerful Surrey II attack in the SET Cup.