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Full name Charles Jesse Kortright
Born January 9, 1871, Furze Hall, Fryerning, Ingatestone, Essex
Died December 12, 1952, Brookstreet, South Weald, Essex (aged 81 years 338 days)
Major teams Essex
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm fast
Charles Jesse Kortright, the old Essex cricketer and probably the fastest bowler in the history of the game, died at his Brentwood home on December 12, 1952 aged 81. He played county cricket from 1889 to 1907 and was contemporary with such other noted fast bowlers as Knox and Richardson of Surrey and Brearley and Mold of Lancashire. Kortright who also played for Free Foresters never appeared in a Test Match, but he accomplished many fine feats and William Gunn, the famous Nottinghamshire batsman, said after Kortright had bowled him in a Gentlemen v. Players match at Lord's that the ball which beat him was a yard faster than any he had ever played against. The late Sir Stanley Jackson in an article in the 1944 edition of Wisden on The Best Fast Bowler wrote, "Kortright was generally regarded as the fastest bowler of his time in this country. Not only was he a very fast bowler, but also a very good one."
Against Surrey at Leyton in 1895 he took six wickets, including those of Hayward, Abel and Lohmann, for four runs. In another game against Surrey, at Leyton in 1893, he dismissed thirteen men for 64 runs. Another splendid achievement was his 8 for 57 against the powerful Yorkshire batting side of 1890 at Leyton. In 1893, also at Leyton, he and Walter Mead bowled unchanged through both completed Surrey innings.
A man of splendid physique, standing six feet and possessing abundant stamina, Kortright took a long run and hurled the ball down at a great pace. He was fond of recounting the tale of a club match at Wallingford where, so he declared, he bowled a ball which rose almost straight and went out of the ground without a second bounce. This, he asserted, made him the first man to bowl a six in byes! He also claimed to have bowled Brockwell of Surrey with a yorker which rebounded from the bottom of the stumps and went back past Kortright almost to the boundary. With the bat, Kortright was at times an effective hitter. Against Hampshire at Southampton in 1891 he scored 158 in an hour and three-quarters, and he hit 131 out of 166 off Middlesex at Leyton in 1990.
In later life Kortright turned his sporting activities mainly to golf, and he was for many years a devoted and popular member of the Thorndon Park club in Essex. He always retained the keenest interest in cricket and was a vice-president of the Essex County Club, at whose matches he was frequently be seen until recent years. When interviewed for Wisden of 1948, Kortright advocated plenty of hard work in practice as the secret of producing a fast bowler, and he deprecated the modern cults of swing and spin. He believed that length and direction at the stumps should be the aim of fast bowlers, with much more use than seen to-day of the yorker, especially against newly-arrived batsmen. He also stressed the need for good fielding and its effect in encouraging the bowler to give of his best. Kortright did not agree that present-day pitches were less favourable to fast bowlers than those of his playing days, and pointed out that the bowler of to-day enjoyed such advantages as a slightly smaller ball, wider crease, bigger stumps, and an l.b.w. law allowing a batsman to be given out to a ball pitching outside the off stump.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1953
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind