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Wednesday, 20th August 2008

Sadly, November, 1998 has seen the world lose another great English cricketer whose career spanned the Second World War.

Doug Wright played cricket for Kent and England. He has died at the age of 84. A bowler of considerable skill, he was much feared by those that faced his fast leg-breaks. Sir Donald Bradman lamented the fact Wright was not Australian.

Statisticians could possibly miss the point given his final Test record of 108 wickets at just over 39 each, which is not the most illustrious of totals ever posted. This can be partially explained by his inconsistency which often saw him bowling no-balls or bowling short. It is also true that he never quite perfected the top-spinner. A high proportion of his deliveries had the ability to beat the batsman, miss the wickets and sail past the wicket-keeper, which has to be one of the more infuriating sights in cricket.

Some of the erratic behavior of the ball would have been imparted on the ball during an unorthodox run-up. An Australian cricket writer summed it up best;

playing in Australia where he took more wickets than any other bowler

'Wright's 10 strides are of assorted sizes, a few of short steps, five long bounds and a quick finish ending in a leap for the line. Just before that he spreads his arms wide, then lifts both overhead as a preliminary to his full-circle delivery. To me, his approach looked a cross between the barn dance and a swallow dive. To the batsman it seemed more like a routine from a witch doctors caperings before a victim tied to the stake.'

Douglas Vivian Parson Wright was born 21 Aug.1914 at Sidcup. His early activities suggested he would work as a solicitors clerk but as luck would have it GA Faulkner, the South African coach had set up the first indoor cricket school, spotted Douglas and was to teach him the art of bowling.

In the 1932 season at the age of 17 he was to play for Kent. In 1938 he was picked for the England side to play against Australia, and as such appears in the Players, Cricketers, 1938 [1938] series. The captain of England, Walter Hammond had first hand experience of his bowling style which was to be a determining factor in his selection.

In the Headingley test Australia needed 105 runs to win with 8 wickets in hand. It was against this backdrop that Wright was brought on to bowl. Within five overs he had taken 3 wickets which included Bradman and McCabe. Not enough to save the match unfortunately.

The Players series of 1938 was issued to honour the players of the Ashes series, something they did in 1930 and 1934. The 1938 series has a certain sadness to it because of the subsequent losses during the Second World War. Like so many of the sporting sets which were issued on the eve of this conflict.

1946-7 saw Wright playing in Australia where he took more wickets than any other bowler on either side, 23 in the Tests and 51 during the course of the tour. Once again statistics do not do him justice as the great Bradman had more than his fair share of good fortune against Wright. Unfortunately for Wright the cricket selectors were more interested in statistics and Wright was not played as regularly as perhaps he deserved. He did remain a central part of the post-war Kent side, although it has to be admitted this was not the most productive of the counties cricketing history.

He retired in 1957 after captaining his county from 1954 to 1956. His career had seen him take 2056 wickets at an average of 23.98 runs. He took 100 wickets in a season 10 times and also took seven hat-tricks ( taking 3 wickets on consecutive balls) which remains a record.

In 1959 Wright became cricket coach at Charterhouse from which he retired in 1971.