Born on day, November 7th 1925 in Worcester, one of the greatest players of all time, former England captain, Mary Duggan.
Batting right handed and bowling slow left arm orthodox, Mary’s early cricketing years were during WWII. Had that interruption not taken place, it is likely that this player could have been the best of all time.
Her debut first class fixtures were in selection trials for the England team. Who would make the tour to Australia for the 1948/9 series? Captained by Molly Hide, this would be a team of stars from 1937 – Myrtle Maclagan, Betty Snowball, Hide herself – and the next generation in Duggan and Cecilia Robinson.
Wickets against Ceylon at Colombo and against Western Australia in Perth after the ship docked at Fremantle, Duggan played her debut Test at the Adelaide Oval. The Australian team was captained by Mollie Dive and contained their own next gen: Una Paisley and Betty Wilson. No wickets in the first innings, then sent in at three as night watchman as Wilson ran a wrecking ball through the England innings. That series was a baptism of fire against a team determined to win the Ashes for the first time.
Mollie Dive and her Australians were in England for three Tests in 1951 where Duggan also displayed another string to her bow. Not only was she a capable spin bowler, but she could also open the bowling with her left-arm swing. This was evident in the first Test where she removed both Australia’s openers, taking 2-28 from 16 overs.
At Worcester for the second Test, Duggan took her first five wicket haul, 5-40 from 22.2 overs, once again removing Joan Schmidt and Mary Allitt, the two openers. Another four wickets in the second innings giving her nine wickets for the match – bitter sweet, England losing by two wickets.
In the third Test, ANOTHER nine wickets, this time 4-74 and 5-30, bowling England to victory to square the series. She took 20 wickets in the series at 11.95.
Appointed captain of the England team for the 1957/8 tour of New Zealand and Australia, she celebrated by taking 6-55 at Christchurch and 5-47 and 85 with the bat at Auckland.
Against Australia, the first Test at Sydney was washed out. The second Test, at St Kilda Ground in Melbourne, what has been named “the Betty Wilson Test” could just as easily be named the Mary Duggan Test. Lost in the excitement of Wilson’s feats are the 7-6 from Mary Duggan to demolish Australia’s batting. Those figures the best by an England woman in Test cricket. Wilson then destroyed England for 35, with Duggan top scoring with 12. Wilson’s century put Australia in the box seat to win, but England held on to draw the match.
Her final series, at home against Australia in 1963, Mary Duggan’s century in the third Test won the Ashes back for England. That 101 not out, described by two players on the opposing team, Muriel Picton and Miriam Knee, as one of the finest knocks they’d ever seen.
In 17 Test matches, Duggan scored 651 runs at 24.14 with two centuries. She took 77 wickets at 13.49, with a best of 7-6 – it included 5 five wicket hauls. Tragically Mary died at just 47 years of age, in 1973.