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Bedser: a giant of the game

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Sir Alec Bedser

Sir Alec Bedser receives his knighthood at Buckingham Palace in 1997. Tributes have flowed in today following his death

Sir Alec Bedser was a bowler great enough for Sir Donald Bradman to say of him: "He probably worried me more than any other Englishman."

Bedser bowled the peerless Bradman for a duck in Adelaide in 1946 with what the Australia legend called the finest delivery he ever faced.

Bedser, the only bowler to dismiss Bradman twice without scoring, once claimed his wicket in five successive Test innings.

Bradman, although the term was half in jest, then had to endure being called "Bedser's rabbit".

Bedser took 236 wickets in 51 Tests for England, then a record, and gave yeoman service to his beloved Surrey from 1939-1960.

His dedication to English cricket was as great after his playing retirement as during the days when he virtually carried the England attack on his broad shoulders.

He managed three England tours, sat on numerous committees and was chairman of England's selectors for a record 13 years until 1981. He was awarded the OBE in 1964, a CBE in 1982 and was knighted for his services to cricket in 1996.

Bedser, in all walks of life, was dependable and honest, good-natured but blunt in his opinions. At 6ft 3in and more than 15 stone in his prime, he was a giant of the game - but a gentle one.

He was inseparable from his identical twin brother Eric. Together they practised as youngsters, joined Surrey, helped the club to seven successive championship titles from 1952, went into business and played practical jokes on those who could not tell them apart.

Alec was born on July 4, 1918 - 10 minutes after Eric, whom he survived by four years.

The boys were 14 before they played for the first time on a proper turf pitch, and their cricket development was largely due to their own hard work.

Both joined the Surrey staff in 1938 and when war broke out they were called up into the RAF in September 1939.

They were posted (together, of course) to the investigation branch of RAF security, went to France, were evacuated from Dunkirk, and from 1943 saw service in North Africa, Italy and Austria.

Alec and Eric Bedser

Brothers in arms: Alec and Eric even joined the RAF together when war broke out in 1939, serving in the forces until 1946

After the war the twins helped investigate war crimes committed by Italians against allied airmen, and were demobilised just in time for the start of the 1946 cricket season.

The war meant Bedser did not make his Test debut until he was 28. Once in, he was the indefatigable backbone of the English attack.

Perhaps his most memorable series was against the 1953 Australians, when his 39 wickets helped England regain the Ashes after a gap of 19 years.

In that same year his benefit with Surrey raised £12,866 and Alec used it to start an office equipment business with Eric.

In the summer they worked each day before cricket started and again after play ended. Seven years later they had bought out other businesses and had an annual turnover of £750,000.

By the late 1970s, and several mergers later, the Bedsers' company, Brengreen Holdings, employed more than 1,000 people.

But it is as a cricketer and cricket administrator that Bedser has earned his place in history.

Only 11 other post-war players have taken more than his 1,924 first-class wickets at 24.14 apiece, and at the age of 42 he took 5-25 in his final match, against Glamorgan and appropriately at the Oval.

He captained Surrey, was president of the club and became an honorary member of the MCC.

Even his one moment of controversy came about through his genuine concern for English cricket.

In New Zealand in 1975, when he was managing the England party, he made an off-the-cuff remark about the damage one-day cricket was doing to the English game.

It caused the sponsors of the Gillette Cup and Benson and Hedges Cup in England to drop him from their panel of man-of-the-match adjudicators.

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