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Monday, 5 April 2010

Loss of Sir Alec Bedser a sad day for cricket

Loss of Sir Alec Bedser a sad day for cricket
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sir Alec Bedser twice. The first time, just before England’s 2006-07 tour to Australia, he was in fine fettle, still playing golf, still driving to his beloved Oval. The second and final time, last September, his health had visibly declined. He had been scalded in his shower, and then picked up an infection in hospital. It was upsetting to see a seemingly indomitable warrior fading physically.

By Huw Turbervill
Published: 12:32PM BST 05 Apr 2010

Legend of the game: Sir Alec Bedser leaves the field in triumph after a successful match Photo: GETTY IMAGES He was still mentally brilliant, though. In interviewing him for a book I am writing about the England cricket team on tour, his memories were vivid at the age of 91. He was surrounded by journals and memorabilia, and occasionally he would use a cricketing trinket on his mantelpiece, or nestling on the sofa next to his favourite chair, as a reference point. One or two players who I had contacted for the book could hardly recall a thing, and yet were 20 years or more younger. Some, sadly, have been ravaged by dementia, but not Bedser.

Both times I met him in the house in Woking, Surrey, that he and his beloved twin brother Eric, who died in 2006, helped their father build in 1953. It was off the beaten track – I had to ask a postman for directions. I am glad I found it. Although he had a slightly authoritative manner, he was warm enough, and he was extremely accommodating with his time - and he proved to be a minefield of information.

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The maid's tale: Kathryn Stockett examines slavery and racism in America's Deep SouthHe had fascinating tales to recount, playing in fives Ashes series, including three tours, and managing England Down Under on three others. He was a selector for 23 years and was chairman of selectors from 1969 to 1981, famously falling out with Ian Botham, who was captain for the first two Tests of that famous Ashes summer 29 years ago.

Bedser always saw the bigger picture. He was very close to Sir Donald Bradman, and when the Australian captain was controversially given not out to a slip catch in the opening Test at Brisbane in 1946-47, Bedser, who was at short-leg, was glad for cricket. He told me: “I think if he had been dismissed cheaply he would have packed it in, and then we would not have had him come to England in 1948 [his farewell series, when he made two centuries and struck 508 runs].” It didn’t matter that Bedser suffered at his hands in both those series –although he had more success than any other Test bowler against him,dismissing six times in all.

Bedser was just happy to be playing at all. He had served in north Africa during the Second World War for two and a half years and finally made his Test debut at the age of 28 against India in 1946. He took 11 wickets in each of his first two Tests and never looked back.

Now the final player in that 1946-47 series has passed away. That is very sad for cricket.

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