Chick Cray 1921-2008 November 10, 2008

Essex veteran Cray dies

Chick Cray, one of the diminishing number of cricketers who played first-class cricket before the war, has died in a Torquay hospital at the age of 87.

Cray made his debut for Essex in 1938, a week after his 17th birthday, and the following summer he held down a regular place despite not making a fifty in 15 matches. Then came the war which deprived him of six seasons, although he did play some first-class cricket in India while in the forces.

He returned in 1947 in good form and enjoyed his best summer, scoring 1339 runs at 26.78, including the first three of his seven career hundreds. He passed 1000 runs again in 1949, and although he started 1950 well, hitting a career-best 163 against Nottinghamshire, he was released at the end of the season in circumstances that did the county no credit, receiving a curt telephone call while coaching in South Africa.

He finished with 4218 first-class runs at 24.66 in 102 appearances. After leaving Essex he was the professional at Paignton in Devon for a number of years, also representing the county in the Minor Counties Championship. He retired from playing and coaching in 1961because he was increasingly troubled by a hand injury resulting from a car accident.

He had a variety of jobs, ranging from kitchen assistant to postman, but rarely talked about his cricket exploits.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa