|Batting style||Right-hand batsman|
|Bowling style||Right-arm fast|
Charles Jesse Kortright (9 January 1871 at Furze Hall, Fryerning, Ingatestone, Essex – 12 December 1952 at Brookstreet, South Weald, Essex) was an English cricketer, who played for Essex and Free Foresters. In his obituary in the 1953 edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, he was described as "probably the fastest bowler in the history of the game", a testimony fervently supported by countless of those who saw and faced him.
Life and career
Educated at Brentwood school and Tonbridge, Charles Kortright played for Essex from 1889 to 1907. He took 489 wickets in first-class matches at an average of 21.05, with best innings figures of 8/57. (Many of Essex's matches prior to 1895, when they were admitted to the County Championship, were not first-class.) He was also a useful, hard-hitting batsman, with two first-class hundreds to his credit and an average of 17.61.
He played as an amateur, having a private income which meant he did not need to work for a living. Unlike most other gentleman amateurs, Kortright trained hard and bowled fast off a long run-up.
Though he never played Test cricket, he appeared for the Gentlemen in the Gentlemen v Players match which, in years when no Test team was touring England, was the most prestigious fixture of the season. John Arlott included him in his best XI never to play Test cricket for England.
Kortright lived until 1952 and was interviewed shortly before his death providing a wonderful insight into Victorian cricket. The bowlers of his era used the yorker as their main weapon; they had bowled on some pitches just as flat as modern "shirt fronts". The bowling crease was smaller in those days, which restricted their angles of attack. He pointed out that he had used a larger ball and had smaller stumps to bowl at. The way to overcome these obstacles was simply to get fitter and bowl faster.
Many batsmen were given a thorough battering by Kortright and W. G. Grace was no exception. In 1898, the batsman was approaching 50 years old and refused to speak to Kortright following a Gloucestershire vs Essex match. This was the famous occasion on which Kortright, having uprooted two of the stumps after Grace had shamelessly intimidated the umpire out of giving several dismissals, said: "Surely you're not going, Doc? There's still one stump standing". This witticism rather than the battering he received, may have been the main cause of Grace's ire. He claimed that he had never been so insulted.
They made up a few days later when they almost batted their way to a draw in the Gentlemen v Players match. Kortright told the whole story in a radio interview in the 1950s. The Gentlemen were two minutes away from saving the match when Kortright was out after a lengthy last wicket partnership.
Another story he was fond of telling was of bowling a bouncer at Wallingford which flew over the batsman and was still rising as it cleared the boundary. He claimed this was the only time anyone had bowled six byes. If it happened it would have been an incorrect ruling from the umpire as, under the Laws of cricket, it should have scored four.
He never played a Test match. Eventually he turned to wrist spin and continued to take significant numbers of wickets. In 1903, he captained Essex. In retirement, he played golf. He proudly boasted he had never done a day's work in his life.