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Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Remembering the Bearded Wonder

Bill Frindall
The commentary box was Bill Frindall's home away from home

"These are serious men, who will take up hours of your life if you let them, arguing about whether Fred Trueman lighting his pipe 21 times between lunch and tea was a record for an Oval Test against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge in June."

So wrote Martin Johnson about Bill Frindall and the cricket statistician fraternity in the Daily Telegraph, after England's Andrew Strauss played all around a Shane Warne delivery in the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney in January 2007, a dismissal which saw the leg-spinner become the first bowler to take 700 Test wickets in history.

According to Frindall, however, Warne was still six wickets short of the mark. Why? Because of his refusal to recognise the status of the so-called Super Series Test match in Sydney in 2004 between Australia and a Rest of the World XI.

In the Frindall record book, Warne's career tally was 702 wickets, not 708. Likewise, all-time leading wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan's five victims in the same match went unrecognised by the man known around the cricket world as the Bearded Wonder.

Frindall, the longest serving member of the Test Match Special team, took particular delight that his birth coincided with the first day of the "timeless Test" between South Africa and England in Durban on 3 March 1939, a game which lasted an unprecedented 11 days.

The nicknames came about simply because he couldn't remember our names

Frindall on Brian Johnston's memory

It was as a 10-year-old that he was first taught the idiosyncrasies of scoring by a schoolmaster during a rainy sports afternoon.

His playing career saw him represent teams such as the MCC, Singapore, France, Hampshire 2nd XI as a fast-medium bowler, as well as the Clergy of Oxford and Salisbury under the name of "Father William".

Following national service with the RAF, he worked for Nato before turning his attention once again to cricket scoring after joining the BBC in 1966.

He possessed a sharp sense of humour and attributed his appointment as TMS's official statistician to an "inspired piece of obituary watching".

TMS producer Adam Mountford
He continued: "My predecessor Arthur Wrigley who had done the job since 1934 was the first scorer. Sadly he died suddenly so I phoned up the BBC, found out who was in charge of cricket and wrote a letter.

"It probably said 'Dear Sir, You must be one short!' - and it all started from there."

The ubiquitous nickname, originally coined by the late Brian Johnston, was used by almost everyone except his wife Debbie - "She doesn't like Mrs Bearders very much," he explained.

"The nicknames came about simply because he couldn't remember our names. The funny one was (Australian broadcaster) Neville Oliver, 'The Doctor'. He was called that because his initials 'NO' appeared on the list of duties, and eventually everyone thought he was a doctor.

Bill Frindall and Christopher Mrtin-Jenkins at a BBC TMS lunch in 1978
TMS duo Frindall and Christopher Martin-Jenkins at a BBC lunch in 1978

"By the time Australia made their third tour with him as commentator, he got a letter from a GP in Scotland inviting him to become his locum for a couple of weeks while he went on holiday!"

Frindall's facial hirsuteness earned him admiration from the Beard Liberation Front, the country's foremost collection of beard wearers, and he was named Beard of the Year on numerous occasions.

He was almost as proud of those awards as he was of his MBE, which was awarded in 2004, for his services to broadcasting and cricket.

Frindall served a short period as the Mail on Sunday's cricket correspondent, and also edited the Playfair Cricket Annual, Wisden and other cricket publications.

He was also affiliated to numerous cricket clubs around the world, and also served as the president of British Blind Sport.

In recent years, his ability to answer almost any cricket query - no matter how obscure - earned him a cult following on the BBC Sport website, where his "Ask Bearders" blog attracted hundreds of comments from intrigued fans from across the globe.

Aaron van Geordieland once asked: "When one says 'a batsman was out without troubling the scorers', how much trouble does the batsman really cause?"

Bearders was not happy. "Frequently I have publicly threatened to throttle any commentator who uses that hackneyed and erroneous expression," he answered, before giving a detailed explanation of his linear scoring method, designed for TMS commentaries.

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see also
Cricket mourns death of Frindall
30 Jan 09 |  Cricket
Cricket's bearded wonder made MBE
12 Jun 04 |  Wiltshire

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