October 20, 1917, Aigburth, Liverpool, Lancashire
January 08, 2007 (aged 89y 80d)
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
Plucked from the relative obscurity of Lancashire club cricket to captain his county in 1947, Kenneth Cranston made an immediate impression at first-class level, averaging close to 40 with the bat and 23 with the ball. Tall and lithe, he was a natural games player. An aggressive right hand bat, with three first-class centuries, he usually opened the bowling at a brisk fast-medium. He was rewarded with a Test cap against South Africa in 1947 after only 13 first-class appearances - in his second match at Headingley he polished off South Africa's second innings with four wickets in six balls (W.W.WW). That winter he toured the West Indies under Gubby Allen as vice-captain. Allen was injured on board ship, and Cranston captained the side in the first Test, which was drawn. Injury-hit and by no means a full-strength touring party, England struggled on this tour, and Cranston dropped out of contention in 1948, playing just once against the all-conquering Australian tourists. At the end of the 1948 season Cranston resigned as captain of Lancashire, unable to balance the commitments of first-class cricket and his dental practice. Apart from a few appearances in festival matches, it was the end of a very promising first-class career.
Ken Cranston was matched only by CB Fry and Wilson of The Wizard for the breadth of his achievements in addition to his performances as a first-class cricketer. In a startlingly brief career he captained his county and his country at cricket and played 51 times for Lancashire at hockey. For 11 days, following the death of Mandy Mitchell-Innes, Cranston was England's oldest surviving Test cricketer.
Selected to play cricket for Liverpool University, he completed an exam on the morning of the match, then hurried to the ground to find that Birmingham University had reduced his side to 82 for 6. He went out at the fall of the next wicket to hit fifty in his first 10 minutes at the crease. He completed a whirlwind 128 before the declaration at 320 for 9.
Cranston served as a dental officer in the Navy during the war but continued to play cricket both for the Navy and the Combined Services. When Jack Fallows was not re-engaged as Lancashire captain for the 1947 season Cranston took leave of absence from the Aigburth dental practice he shared with his father and was appointed in his place. He was the personification of the dashing, handsome amateur captain but not even Cyril Washbrook at his most curmudgeonly could disparage Cranston's immediate impact.
In his first season he made 1,228 runs at an average of 33.18, took 84 wickets at a cost of 22.54 runs each and was called up for the last three Tests of the series against South Africa. In his second match, at Headingley, he bowled his now legendary quadruple wicket maiden, cleaning up South Africa's second innings and finishing with 4 for 12. His Test career came to a sad if symmetrical end at Headingley the following year when Cranston was as helpless as the rest of the England attack to prevent Australia from scoring 404 for 3 on the final day.
Don Bradman, having made an unbeaten 173 to win the match, might not have been impressed by Cranston's brisk medium pace or his last innings, in which he was caught behind for a duck off Bill Johnston, but legend has it that he was keen on a free consultation about his teeth with the Lancashire allrounder.
In the intervening close season Cranston had toured the West Indies as Gubby Allen's vice-captain and, when the 45-year-old leader, in the glorious tradition of injured England captains, pulled a muscle on the journey to the Caribbean, Cranston, who had been playing club cricket the previous year, led out his country in the first Test at the Kensington Oval, holding a strong home side to a draw. It was to be a one off: Allen returned for the next Test and Cranston never again captained England. His best bowling performance came in the third Test at Georgetown, when he dismissed both Clyde Walcott and Everton Weekes in his analysis of 4 for 78. Lancashire had finished third in the Championship in 1947 but slipped two places the following year. Cranston's figures were still impressive. He scored another thousand runs at 33.21 and took a further 79 wickets at an average of 27.06 but somehow the attraction of days in the sun had diminished and the siren song of the dentist's drill was too tempting. He continued to work in his chosen profession until 1990.
The cricket correspondent of the Manchester Evening News felt that, despite his elegant appearance and amateur status, "judged solely as a captain Cranston did not quite make the grade". The Lancashire dressing room in 1947 and 1948 contained some hard-bitten professionals who would have resented the skipper's close relationship with the committee and his failure to consult them as often as they would have wished. This was hardly a situation unique to Lancashire but Cranston had never seen himself as anything more than a temporary first-class cricketer and he returned to dentistry content with his firstclass career.
He emerged briefly in 1949 to play at the Scarborough Festival where, batting as low as No.8, he scored a scintillating 156 not out for MCC against the joint champions Yorkshire, including a rapid eighthwicket partnership of 127 with Denis Compton. He played his final first-class match for HDG Leveson- Gower against the 1950 West Indies at the same venue.
He continued to play league
cricket for Neston and occasionally
for MCC and the Free Foresters.
He was greatly liked around Old
Trafford and served as president of
Lancashire in 1993-94.
Colin Schindler, The Wisden Cricketer
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