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England Test bowling great Sir Alec Bedser dies

Sir Alec Bedser
Receiving his knighthood in 1997 was a proud moment for Sir Alec

Sir Alec Bedser, one of the finest of all England bowlers, has died at the age of 91, it has been announced.

Bedser, knighted in 1997, passed away on Sunday evening at a hospital in Woking after falling ill last month.

He took 236 wickets in 51 Tests over 10 years before serving a record 23 years as a selector and managing two tours.

Along with twin brother Eric, Bedser was an integral part of the Surrey team that won seven consecutive County Championships between 1952 and 1958.

He had been the last man alive to have taken the wicket of Australian legend Sir Donald Bradman in a Test match, and never bowling above medium-fast - with the wicketkeeper standing up to the stumps - he dismissed the great batsman six times in all.

Bradman stayed in regular contact by post with Bedser until his own death in 2001, and rated the Englishman as the finest bowler of his type he had faced.

BBC Sport's Oliver Brett

"The Don" famously finished Test cricket with an average of 99.94 having been bowled for a duck by leg-spinner Eric Hollies in his final match against England at The Oval in 1948.

But Bedser told BBC Sport in an exclusive interview in August 2008 that, had he been bowling at the time, he would have served up a boundary ball for Bradman to dispatch for four.

"We had lost the series hopelessly already, what did it matter? It matters a lot now though, no-one else will do it [finish with a 100 average]," he said.

Bedser remains one of England's greatest bowlers, having taken 100 or more wickets in a county season 11 times during his career.

Mickey Stewart, 77, another former Surrey and England star and one of Bedser's closest friends, said: "This is obviously a very sad day for me and everybody who has been associated with Alec both during his Surrey and England days.

"I first met him in my debut season with Surrey in 1953 when he was the senior professional and it was an honour and a great experience to play with him.

"He was an incredibly accurate medium pace bowler with great control and I know he was extremely proud of the great Sir Don Bradman saying he was the finest bowler of his type that he played against.

"He was also great friends to myself and my family. Whenever there were moments of concern, Alec was always the first on the phone to see that everything was OK.

"Alec was the typical traditional English professional cricketer and never quite understood all the fuss that goes on about the game today - both on and off the field. When he took his 11 wickets against India in 1946, the press rang at home to speak to his mother for her reaction. Her reply was: 'Well, isn't that what he's supposed to do as a bowler?'."

Bedser excelled in Ashes series, making his highest Test score of 79 as a nightwatchman in the 1948 series, and five years later recorded his best international bowling figures of 7-44 against Australia.

In the Coronation summer of 1953, he also beat Maurice Tate's record of 39 Australian wickets in an Ashes series.

Sir Alec and Eric Bedser
Sir Alec was often seen in public with twin brother Eric, who died in 2006

Bedser played his first Test in 1946 for England in a home series against India, having made just 12 previous first-class appearances for Surrey.

The 28-year-old immediately impressed, taking 11 wickets in a remarkable debut with his accurate medium-fast seam bowling, swiftly becoming the first Englishman to take 200 Test wickets.

He remains seventh on England's all-time leading wicket-taker list topped by Sir Ian Botham with 383 and was inducted into the International Cricket Council's Hall of Fame, along with 21 compatriots in January 2009.

Following his retirement, Bedser remained a central figure in English cricket, serving as a selector over three decades, as well as presiding as chairman between 1969 and 1981.

Alec and twin Eric, who were inseparable, continued to be familiar faces at the Oval, attending at least one day of every county match at Surrey's home ground during an English summer.

"Our absolute and complete affinity is hard to explain," said Alec. "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."

Eric passed away in May 2006, but before he died the twins were often mistaken for each other by friends, colleagues and team-mates.

Among those to pay tribute to the more famous of the two brothers was former Prime Minister John Major. The keen Surrey and England fan said: "Alec Bedser was one of the greatest medium-fast bowlers of all time. He was also one of the great thinkers about cricket and his wisdom was one of the great untapped resources of the modern game.

"As a young boy at The Oval, Alec was my bowling idol. In later years he became a friend I cherished greatly. Few people have served cricket better. None will be more missed."

Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon said: "Sir Alec was an iconic figure in world cricket. He upheld all the great traditions of the game and represented an era that has had a lasting impact on the history of Test and County cricket.

"In our sadness at the passing of one of the world's greatest cricketers, we can also celebrate the end of an innings which brought pleasure to millions - and who was respected by all who were privileged to have known him."

International Cricket Council chairman David Morgan said: "I kept in regular contact with him by telephone and the last time we spoke was just a few weeks ago. He was still a keen follower of the game and was up to date with the latest scores and developments."

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke said: "Alec Bedser deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest England bowlers of all time, a master of the craft of seam bowling and a true legend of the game."

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see also
Obituary: Sir Alec Bedser
05 Apr 10 |  Cricket
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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