Cricket mourns Bedser

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Alec Bedser

Alec Bedser in 1953, the year in which he helped England to a famous Ashes triumph against Australia on home soil

Former England bowler Sir Alec Bedser has died at the age of 91.

Bedser, widely regarded as one of the finest bowlers of the post-war era, died yesterday following a brief illness.

The former Surrey seamer enjoyed an outstanding career which spanned 21 years and was knighted for his services to cricket.

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke led the tributes to Bedser, who was the oldest living England cricketer at the time of his death.

“Sir 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,” Clarke said.

“His contribution to cricket in this country as a player and an administrator was immense and he will forever be associated with Surrey's famous County Championship-winning sides of the 1950s.

“All cricket-lovers in England and Wales will mourn his death and our deepest sympathies go to his family for their loss.”

Bedser, who bowled fast-medium, took 1,924 first-class wickets at 20.41, including 236 at an average of 24.89 in 51 Tests, between 1939 and 1960.

He was famed for his unremitting accuracy and immense stamina, which, allied to a revered leg-cutter, made him one of the best bowlers on uncovered pitches that the game has seen.

Bedser played two games without taking a wicket before a seven-year break due to the Second World War, but upon his return claimed more than 100 wickets in his first full season at Surrey.

He was swiftly selected for England, making his debut against India in 1946 aged 28 - in what was only his 13th first-class match - and taking 11 wickets in each of his first two Tests.

Bedser spearheaded England’s attack for most of the following decade, helping them to a famous Ashes victory in 1953 with 39 wickets.

Bedser was the last man alive to have taken the wicket of Australia legend Donald Bradman - something he did six times, more than any other cricketer. He twice dismissed Bradman for a duck.

Alec Bedser, Donald Bradman & Norman Yardley

Bedser alongside Donald Bradman and ex-England captain Norman Yardley during his time as chairman of selectors

Bedser played a pivotal part of Surrey’s dominance of county cricket in the 1950s, helping them to seven County Championship titles in a row. He took more than 100 wickets in a season 11 times in his career.

After his retirement Bedser served as a national team selector for 23 years and was chairman of selectors from 1969 to 1981. In 1987 he was made president of Surrey.

Micky Stewart, a former team-mate of Bedser and one of his 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 okay.

“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?’.”

Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon added: “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. Along with his twin brother Eric, he was one of the most recognisable characters in cricket across the globe.

“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.”

Eric & Alec Bedser

Twin peaks: Eric and Alec Bedser, two pillars of Surrey cricket during their dominance of the English county scene in the 1950s

Ex-Prime Minister Sir John Major, like Bedser a former president of Surrey, added: "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."

International Cricket Council president David Morgan also paid tribute to the impact Bedser had on English cricket and beyond.

“It was an honour and privilege to have known Sir Alec, whose contribution to cricket not only in England and Wales but also globally must never be underestimated.

“He was an outstanding practitioner of seam bowling and some of his contemporaries believed him to be the greatest bowler they ever faced.

“He was a great servant of Surrey County Cricket Club as well as being an astute and insightful administrator.

“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. The game will mourn his passing.”

Bedser was awarded the OBE in 1964, the CBE in 1982 and was knighted in 1996.

His twin brother, Eric - an off-spinning all-rounder who also served Surrey with great distinction - died in 2006 aged 87.

Former Nottinghamshire batsman Reg Simpson becomes the oldest living England cricketer.