Sir Alec Bedser dies aged 91
Sir Alec Bedser, the Surrey and England fast bowler who Don Bradman said "worried me more than any other Englishman," died on Sunday evening at the age of 91.
Regarded as one of finest paceman to play the game, Bedser's playing career spanned 1939-1960 during which time he took 1,924 first-class wickets at 20.41 including 236 for England in 51 Tests. He then became chairman of selectors from 1969 to 1981 and also managed two England tours. In 1996 he was knighted for his services to cricket.
A powerfully-built, naggingly accurate, medium-fast bowler, with a classical action off a short run, Bedser's stock ball was the inswinger, his most dangerous the legcutter which fizzed off the pitch like a fast legbreak. Although his career began in 1939 he played just two matches without taking a wicket before the Second World War meant it was seven years before his next match.
An ever-present in the Surrey side from the beginning of the 1946 season, he was immediately picked by England and made his Test debut at the age of 28 in just his 13th first-class match. He began with 11 wickets in each of his first two Tests, against India, and until 1954 he largely carried England's attack almost single handed. He starred in England's successful 1953 Ashes campaign, taking 39 wickets at 17 in the five Tests, including career-best figures of 14 for 99 at Trent Bridge.
The problems he caused Bradman, who he dismissed six times, including twice for a duck, was a testament of Bedser's skill and until his death he was believed to be the last man alive to have dismissed Bradman. "It was always great to get him out," Bedser told Cricinfo during an interview in 2008. "I practised the legbreaks to work him out and sometimes I was successful.
"Don was very kind. He gave me a lot of encouragement when I first went to Australia, and over the years we became good friends. When I asked him about my bowling after that first season against Australia, he said, 'You might, perhaps, pitch the ball up a bit more, but if you can bowl balls like you bowled me at Adelaide, you don't have to worry about anything else. Just get on and do that.'"
At a time when bowler's workloads are constantly being discussed - and players are rested from international cricket - it is worth recalling that Bedser bowled more than 15,000 overs for Surrey and England. "Our fitness came out of all the hard work we did when we were young," he said during the same interview two years ago. "In my entire Test career I left the field only once. It was at Adelaide and the temperature was around a hundred. I went out but came back and bowled."
Bedser was England's oldest surviving cricketer - a position he assumed late last year when Arthur McIntyre died - and that honour now passes to Nottinghamshire batsman Reg Simpson. Alec's twin brother, Eric, died in 2006 aged 87.