Ken Cranston, who captained England once in 1947-48, died on January 8 at the age of 89. He became England’s oldest living Test cricketer on the death of Mandy Mitchell-Innes on December 28, 2006. That mantle now passes to Surrey’s Arthur Mclntyre. A tall and lithe all-rounder-can bowled fast-medium and batted in the middle order.
Ken Cranston first-class career was limited to two seasons immediately after the war during which time he quickly established a reputation as one of the country’s leading bowlers, being able to move the ball into the right hand off the seam or away in the air. He originally made his name in wartime games for the Royal Navy and Combined Services, but it was not until 1947 that he made his debut for Lancashire as their captain.
England, under the veteran Gubby Allen, was a virtual B side, and Cranston was pressed into leading them in the opening Test when Ållen injured himself on the boat trip out. He struggled in form for any on a grueling trip and lost his place when the side returned home He took 84 wickets and scored 1228 runs in that season, making the first to his eight Test appearances, against South Africa, barely two months after his first-class debut.
In his second Test at Headingley, he grabbed four wickets in one over and won a place on that winter’s tour of the Caribbean. England, under the veteran Gubby Allen, were a virtual B side, and Cranston was pressed into leading them in the opening Test when Allen injured himself on the trip out He struggled for any form on a grueling trip and lost his place when the side returned home.
Ken Cranston continued his excellent form for Lancashire in 1948, and was replaced for Headingly Test against Don Bradman’s Invincible but failed to impress and was immediately dropped. He retired at the end of the summer to resume full-time work at his dental practice in Liverpool, as had always been his intention. After retiring he continued to play for Neston in The Liverpool and District Competition, and in 1950 made a rare first-class appearance at the Scarborough Festival. Where he cracked a career-best 156 runs for MCC against Yorkshire. Overall he made 3099 runs at 34.92 and took 179 wickets at 27.84. In Tests matches, he took 18 wickets at 25.61 and made 209 runs at 14.92.
He maintained strong links with Lancashire and was its president from 1993-94. He was also president of the county’s Former Players’ Association. Made an immediate impression from the relative obscurity of Lancashire club cricket to captaining his county in 1947, Kenneth Cranston made an immediate impression at the first-class level, averaging close to 40 with the bat and 23 with the ball. He was tall and lithe, and a natural games player.
Ken Cranston was an aggressive right-hand batsman, with three first-class centuries under his name. He usually opened the bowling at a brisk fast-medium. Ken was rewarded with a Test cap against South Africa in 1947 after only 13 first-class appearances. In his second match at Headingly, 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 the 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, Ken 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.