Obituary

Doug Wright

WRIGHT, DOUGLAS VIVIAN PARSON, died on November 13, 1998, aged 84, after several years of ill-health. Doug Wright was the finest English leg-spinner, perhaps the most dangerous of all English bowlers, in the years just before and after the war. A Kentishman, from Sidcup, he made his debut for the county in 1932 aged 17, but did not become a regular for another four years until "Tich" Freeman's final season.

By 1938, he was in the Test team against Australia, and at Leeds came close to bowling them to a remarkable victory, dismissing Bradman, McCabe and Hassett as Australia sought a mere 105 for victory. For most of his 34 Tests, he was bowling in difficult circumstances with little support. Often he was the spin attack, as in Australia in 1946-47 when he and Bedser bowled almost 500 eight-ball overs between them. Against South Africa at Lord's in 1947, he took ten for 175, but there were many more days of abject frustration.

Wright began as a quick bowler who liked to turn his wrist and slip in the odd spinner; later he reversed the proportions. But his quicker ball remained so fast that Godfrey Evans had to signal the slips to move deeper, and even his stock ball had a rare fizz to it. Everyone agreed - and Bradman and Hammond were among his chief admirers - that on his day Wright was unplayable. But he gave the batsmen a chance to score too.

"With his technique," wrote David Frith, "running in from over 15 yards, hopping and skipping as he went, and whipping over a wristy and finger-spun ball that would dip, bounce and deviate crazily off the pitch, to expect long-term accuracy was to display a dismal ignorance of physics." "He never ever bowled a ball defensively," said Lord Cowdrey, his team-mate at Kent. "Every ball was bowled to take a wicket."

He took seven hat-tricks, more than anyone else in history, and 100 wickets in a season ten times. In 1954, Doug Wright became Kent's first professional captain, though his natural diffidence did not obviously lend itself to leadership and, as so often in his career, he had a weak team around him: Kent slid nearer the bottom each season. At the end of each day, he would take his shoes and socks off and apologise to his poor old feet. "Sorry, boys," he would say, "but you're going to be needed again tomorrow."

He retired aged 43, and in 1959 succeeded George Geary as coach at Charterhouse. Everyone liked Doug Wright. Cowdrey remembers him being asked about the best over he ever bowled. "Bowling to the Don at Lord's," he said. "Every ball came out of my hand the way I wanted and pitched where I wanted. I beat him twice. It went for 16."

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