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Tales from the Boundary

The Bedser


I have not titled this piece as 'The Bedser Twins' as I have an inkling (more prevalent as one gets older) that they might have wished they weren't twins - or even brothers.   Eric was mostly in Alec's shadow and Alec possibly felt at times that Eric hung on his shirt tails.  They might have wished they were Alec Smith and Eric Brown instead.

Apparently Eric was as good an outswing bowler as Alec was as an inswing bowler but they decided that Surrey had too many pace bowlers and Eric bowled better off spin.   Imagine if they could have opened the bowling together.  
They might even have been able to switch mid over and bamboozle the batsmen.  As it happened England could have used two Bedser pacers over the next few years after WW2, particularly in Australia in 1946-47 and 1950-51.

I never saw either Bedser in person but the impression is that they were both on the huge side.  One person I know of similar physique was a Devon dairy farmer who was brought up on cream scones first thing, full breakfasts, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea (sandwiches AND cake), dinner, late night snacks AND drank raw milk by the gallon.  The farmer's mother made superb all butter pastry pasties, not technically Cornish pasties, as they farmed on the Devon side looking over Plymouth Sound, next to the golf club where 'Lord Haw-Haw' was once a member.

Anyway, Alec burst (or lumbered) onto the Test scene against India in 1946, taking 24 wickets at 12.41 in three Tests, including 7 for 49 and 4 for 96 on debut, followed by 4 for 41 and 7 for 52, but only 2 for 60 in the single innings at the Oval.  His opening partners in those three Tests were Bill Bowes, Bill Voce and Alf Gover!

Alec took a total of 128 wickets off 1,030 overs in 1946 plus 494 runs at 17.03; Eric took 25 wickets and scored 831 runs, including a century, both brothers having previously played just two first class matches in 1939 against the Universities (then only Oxford and Cambridge).

An obvious selection for the Ashes tour of 1946-47, Alec bowled the equivalent of 330 six ball overs, taking 16 wickets at 58.25.  In 1948, against Bradman's 'Invincibles', 18 at 38.22.   In 1950-51 he returned 30 wickets at 16.06 off 200 eight ball overs.  In 1953, 39 wickets at 17.48 off 265 overs.  In between, in 1952, 20 at 13.95 against South Africa.

Selected for the 1954-55 Ashes, at the age of 36, Alec played in just the First Test, not long after having shingles, taking just one for 131 off 296 deliveries.   Infamously he learned of his non-selection for the next Test only on reading the team list on a notice board.  It was the end of a Test career which yielded 236 wickets at 24.90 in 51 Tests, largely a solo effort, excepting some assistance from Trevor Bailey in the latter years.

Alec continued playing for Surrey until 1960, totalling 485 matches, 5,735 runs, including a century and 1,924 wickets at 20.41.  Eric was unfortunate to have the competition of Laker and Lock at Surrey, but notched 457 matches, 14,716 runs at 24.00 and 833 wickets at 24.95.

Subsequently the twins started a stationery business, selling up in 1977.  Alec also served as an England selector from 1962 to 1985.  I got a postcard from him once, in response to my suggestion for the Ashes tour party of 1970-71.  I suggested Phil Sharpe instead of Colin Cowdrey.  I've no idea where that postcard went.

Andrew Appleby