A Special Centenary – Doug Wright

Monday 18th August 2014

The 21st August this year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Douglas Vivian Parson Wright.

Born at Foots Cray, he first played cricket for Chislehurst. Such was his early promise that he was recommended by the then Kent Second XI captain for coaching at the Walham Green School of Cricket, run by the South African leg-break and googly bowler, Aubrey Faulkner.

Through the advice and guidance of Aubrey Faulkner, Doug. Wright studied the theory and developed the art of leg-break and googly bowling and in 1931, following a trial, he was taken on to the Kent staff.

For a time, the promising youngster lived in the shadow of the great A.P. *Tich” Freeman, who took more than 100 wickets in a season on sixteen successive occasions and holds the record as the only bowler to take more than 300 first-class wickets in a season. Nevertheless, it could be said that he learned his trade bowling alongside “Tich” and became one of the formidable bowlers of his type in world cricket.

Doug. Wright was Kent’s first professional captain, being at the helm for three years in the mid-1950s. He lies fourth in Kent’s list of bowling all-time greats taking 1,709 wickets for the County and 2,056 in all first-class matches. He took his 2,000th wicket during the Canterbury Week game against Hampshire in 1956.

Kent players of the relatively recent past hold two world records, neither of which is likely to be equalled, let alone beaten. Arthur Fagg’s two double hundreds in the same match (against Essex at Colchester in 1938) is one such record. The other, a record that has stood since 1949, is the seven career hat-tricks of Doug. Wright. Despite his many appearances at Canterbury only one of the seven, the final one, was achieved on the St Lawrence ground and only one other at home, at the Garrison Ground, Gillingham. Two of the seven were against Gloucestershire and the other opponents were Worcestershire, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Hampshire. His overseas victim was Border, in East London on the 1938/39 MCC tour of South Africa. Five of his record-breaking seven were in the space of the three seasons leading up to WW2.

His first was in 1937 against Worcestershire at New Road, when in their first innings he took a then career best 7-27, finishing with match figures of 9-68 in a Kent victory by an innings and 110 runs. Less than four weeks later he repeated the feat at Trent Bridge, his six wickets in Nottinghamshire’s first innings total of 190, had followed a massive Kent score of 467-5 declared with hundreds by Sunnucks (162) and an undefeated 100 by Todd. In a drawn match, Nottinghamshire recovered in their second innings, scoring 468-9. Those two scores in excess of 450 showed it was not an easy wicket for the bowlers. Wisden reports that this hat trick was, at that point, the eighth of the season.

The following May, against Gloucestershire at Gillingham, Wright dismissed the last four first innings batsmen without conceding a run. But on a wicket initially difficult then treacherous through overnight rain, Goddard’s off-breaks, which earned him match figures of 13-107 routed Kent whose combined innings’ totalled just 260 runs.

1939 saw a further two hat tricks, the first of which was during the 1938/39 MCC tour of South Africa. Despite being among the wickets in the early provincial games he was not selected for the first two Tests. But against Border in mid January he took his fourth in their first innings, dismissing batsmen three, four and five. Back home again, Gloucestershire were on the receiving end for the second time, when on the Ashley Down ground at Bristol he recorded innings figures of 9-47 including of course the hat trick. But Wright’s performance, a career best, was insufficient to prevent Kent going down to an innings defeat, thanks to a remarkable bowling performance by Tom Goddard , who took seventeen wickets in the match, and an undefeated 153 from Dover born Wally Hammond.

After WW2, during which he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, there were to be two further hat tricks. Against Sussex at Hastings, a ground that was to become a favourite for another great Kent spinner, Doug Wright produced a further remarkable performance taking fifteen wickets including a first innings hat trick. That equalled the record held jointly by Charles Parker and Tom Goddard, both Gloucestershire players. Two years later he claimed the record outright. And where more appropriate a place to achieve it than on the St. Lawrence Ground on August Bank Holiday Monday and in Canterbury Week. After scoring 413-8 declared on the first day, the visitors were twice dismissed on day two. In taking eleven wickets in the match (the hat-trick was performed in Hampshire’s first innings) Wright also took his 100th wicket of the season.

Doug. Wright was one of cricket’s most respected and popular figures. Sir Donald Bradman considered him the greatest leg-break bowler of his time and one that he would always have had in his team. He was described as the artist who bowled every ball to take a wicket, the man with ‘Enigma Variations’. Former Kent President Jim Swanton wrote of him that on his best days he was “a uniquely dangerous bowler of leg breaks and googlies and on his not-so-good-days a generous contributor to the general entertainment”.

David Robertson – Honorary Curator