The first bowler since Sir Francis Drake

Alec Bedser knighted

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

Alec Bedser has been fond of repeating Arthur Mailey's bon mot that "the last bowler to be knighted was Sir Francis Drake". Not any more because Alec Victor Bedser, now 78 and the 16th man to be knighted for his services to cricket, is also the first specialist bowler. A fierce patriot, his twin brother Eric will share his pride today, as always.

The pedant might argue that Gubby, Sir George, Allen was a bowler first and foremost but he made 11 first-class hundreds, one in a Test. Bedser, it is true, made a century himself, but in 576 first-class innings he passed 50 on only 12 other occasions.

With a bat he did his honest best, as he has throughout an industrious life. But with a new ball he was in his element, a holy terror whenever there was anything in the pitch and a formidable opponent even on a flat one. Sturdy as an oak, he had the perfect rocking action and his stock combination of fast-medium inswing and leg cut brought him 1,924 wickets at 20 runs each: 236 at 24 in his 51 Tests.

A pillar of the all-conquering Surrey side of the 1950s, he carried England's attack in the years of rebuilding after the war and made lifelong friends of opponents, especially his most demanding one, Don Bradman. He will be visiting Sir Donald in Adelaide shortly, as he does in most winters.

Twice he was able to do so as manager of MCC tours, a reminder that this honour reflects not just his bowling and his exemplary bearing on the field but also his work for English cricket since his retirement, including 13 years as chairman of selectors, 1969-81, during which England lost only two of their seven series for the Ashes.

His stern criticism of the current standard of English bowling is understandable: when Bedser played on the same ground on which the second Test in Harare was drawn, his match figures against a Rhodesia side containing three Test players were 28-14-36-7.

Cricketing Knights

Francis Lacey (1926), Fred Toone (1929), Pelham Warner (1937), Donald Bradman (1949), Henry Leveson-Gower (1953), Jack Hobbs (1953), Leonard Hutton (1956), Frank Worrell (1964), Neville Cardus (1967), Garfield Sobers (1975), George Allen (1986), Richard Hadlee (1990), Colin Cowdrey (1992), Clyde Walcott (1994), Everton Weekes (1995), Alec Bedser (1996).

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

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