Eric Arthur Bedser
July 04, 1918, Reading, Berkshire
May 24, 2006 (aged 87y 324d)
Right hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
A rare and precious twinship has been severed by the death of Eric Bedser at the age of 87. "Our absolute and complete affinity is hard to explain," said his illustrious brother Sir Alec, the younger of the pair. "But it is true and very real to us - so much so that as long as I can remember we have never been happy apart."
The lessons of serene co-existence were discovered in their infancy and bolstered by their mother who later resisted entreaties from Surrey neighbours to separate them. "Why should they not enjoy their twinship?" she asked. As identical twins Eric and Alec were always the subjects of confusion among all but their closest friends. "You must have some fun being so alike but sometimes it must be embarrassing" - thus went a question once addressed to Eric. "Oh, no," he replied, "it's the other people who get embarrassed. When people mistook us, it was not through our instigation. They just got muddled."
There could be no denial of the links between them amounting to a kind of telepathy. Some of the tales told about them seem to be the tallest of tall stories except for the corroboration of team-mates. Examples included the facility to carry out practical tasks jointly. One could start a letter and the other could finish it without their correspondent being aware of the distinction. Conversations too could proceed in tandem. It was not uncommon on promenades around The Oval for interrupted talks with Surrey members and other friends to be continued by either Eric or Alec at another point on the ground. It mattered not a jot since the interlocutor was often unaware, in any case, that he was speaking to a different twin. One contemporary, Billy Griffith, echoed the prevailing bewilderment when he said: "I never cease to wonder at the ease with which Eric and Alec assume each other's identity or when - if they are separated overnight - the twins appear clad in exactly the same clothes." Trevor Bailey cited an instance of the unerring double act. "When I travelled back with Alec after a Test match in Leeds, Eric was there to meet us in London. He was dressed without variation, even to the extent of a similar pair of cufflinks."
Even Alec and Eric, accustomed as they were to the unusual tempo of their lives, were taken aback by one astounding coincidence. Packages of 15 £1 premium bonds were awarded to them when Surrey won the Championship for the sixth year in succession in 1957. They had lain in a drawer at their home for 35 years. One day, in the same post, two buff envelopes dropped through their letterbox. Each in turn opened his envelope. Both contained a winning cheque for £50. "It was unbelievable," said Alec, "because our bond numbers were miles apart." A statistician was asked to calculate the odds against such an occurrence. "They are virtually incalculable," observed the adviser. "But let's start at 20 billion to one."
The happiest feature of the relationship of the Bedsers was the pleasure they took in one another's achievements as cricketers. They always took comfort in each other's counsel, in lean as well as bountiful times. "I was always more interested at what Alec was doing than with my own performances," said Eric.
The elder Bedser had reverted from seam to offspin as a bowler soon after joining the Surrey ranks. As events would prove, it placed him in opposition to Jim Laker. Before the arrival of Laker Eric had been strongly advocated as a candidate to tour Australia in 1950-51. In 1949 he scored 1,740 runs and took 88 wickets. His versatility can be judged from the fact that he took part in 35 century partnerships, including 16 as an opener.
Peter Richardson, the former Worcestershire, Kent and England batsman, believes Eric was wrongly underestimated. "Eric was a high-class bowler. If Jim wasn't playing you didn't actually jump in the air with delight." Richardson said that Eric had to be judged on the role - often as an `odd-jobbing' bowler - that he was given in the Surrey team. "Eric was a bowler who batted, not a batsman who bowled." In 16 seasons from 1946 to 1961 Eric scored 14,716 runs and took 833 wickets at 24.95 runs each.
The Bedsers, as was said of other identical twins, have gone through their lives, keeping time like two precise watches. They lived in the house built with their father at Woking for over 50 years. There was security in their togetherness;
in old age, as Alec will now sadly recall, it gave them contentment and an in-built insurance against loneliness. For Richardson their association had an uncommon grace and harmony. "The joy that Eric has got from Alec's success
was so blatant. This is one of the nicest things about the brothers."
Alan Hill, The Wisden Cricketer
Batting & Fielding