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Obituary: Sir Alec Bedser

Close friends often found it hard to tell Alec (right) and Eric Bedser apart
Close friends often found it hard to tell Alec (right) and Eric Bedser apart

Alec Bedser was often mistaken for his identical twin brother Eric, but had a bowling style all of his own.

When Alec Bedser bowled Don Bradman for a duck at Adelaide in 1947, the Australian legend declared it was the finest ball he had ever faced.

For his deadly leg-cutters and his medium-fast balls that swung off the pitch like "huge, lifting leg-spinners", Bedser was the only Englishman to be named in Donald Bradman's all-time cricket XI.

Broad-shouldered, huge-handed and consistently aggressive, Bedser spearheaded his country's attack throughout the 1950s, when he became the world's leading wicket-taker.


He played in five Ashes series, a career highlight coming in 1948 when, although Australia retained the Ashes, Bedser excelled in the final Test, taking five wickets in each innings to make it 30 for the series.

The Oval provided the backdrop for young Alec to hone his considerable bowling skills, and for his identical twin brother Eric to become an impressive all-rounder.

The inseparable pair joined the ground staff at Surrey's headquarters in 1938 for the summer wage of £2 a week, with a winter retainer of £1.

In 1953, Bedser helped Surrey to become county champions by taking 12 wickets for 35 runs against Warwickshire. It was a rare instance of a Championship match being started and finished inside a single day.

Bedser had a unique bowling style
Bedser had a unique bowling style

The well-loved brothers played together at The Oval for more than 15 years. The nearby road, Bedser Close SE11, remains a testament to their outstanding contribution to Surrey's side. There is also a Bedser Close in Woking, where they lived.

Sir Alec Bedser took 1,924 first-class wickets, and a then world record of 236 Test dismissals. During 1946 and 1947, he sent down 3,200 overs in first-class cricket, a workload that would have today's bowlers reeling.

For his 51 appearances for his country and his later service as chairman of England's selectors, Bedser earned an OBE, a CBE, and, in 1997, a knighthood.

When England reclaimed the Ashes in 1953, Bedser's bowling partnership with Trevor Bailey was praised as one of the all-time great pairings.

But it was with his brother Eric, with whom he enjoyed what he called "a complete and absolute affinity", that Alec Bedser will always be associated.

In 1957, both men were awarded 15 £1 Premium Bonds by their club. Thirty-five years later, two brown envelopes fell through the door. They had both won £50, a coincidence with odds of more than 20 billion to one.

This strange stroke of fortune was one more example of the loyal and lasting empathy between the pair that had helped put English cricket back on its feet after World War II.

They had some mischief along the way, too. They stood guard for each other during the war, and their identical faces could cause confusion on the cricket pitch.

Against Old England at the Oval in 1947, Alec bowled the first three balls to Frank Woolley and Eric completed the over.

The batsman never noticed the difference, but turned to the keeper and remarked, "He's got a wonderful change of pace."

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see also
England bowling great Bedser dies
04 Apr 10 |  England
Ex-England aces dominate ICC list
02 Jan 09 |  Cricket
Bedser recalls the private Bradman
26 Aug 08 |  Cricket
Surrey mourn club stalwart Bedser
24 May 06 |  Surrey
Classic Ashes: The Oval
19 Aug 09 |  Cricket
Cricket the Bedser way
25 Apr 01 |  Surrey

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