Elder of the identical cricketing twins who played for Surrey and represented a particular Fifties integrity
Friday 26 May 2006
Eric Arthur Bedser, cricketer: born Reading, Berkshire 4 July 1918; died Woking, Surrey 24 May 2006.
The cricketer Eric Bedser was older by 10 minutes than his brother Alec. To so many people, the Bedser twins were a living representation of all that was good about Britain in the period 1945-60, the world of Ealing comedies, Miss Marple, Family Favourites, Jack Warner, few cars and a little black-and-white television. Sir Donald Bradman said of the Bedsers: "They exude an integrity which is the hallmark of good citizens."
Country boys, regular churchgoers, the pair were born in Reading in 1918, but soon returned to the family home in Woking - and stayed there. Outstanding at both football and cricket, they arrived at the Oval together, enlisted in the RAF (their father's service) in the Second World War and then, afterwards, while Eric became an opening bat and sometime off-spinner for Surrey, his brother of the lion heart was in effect England's seam attack for six years until the arrival of the new wave of fast bowlers in the early 1950s.
Tall and strong, the Bedsers were so much alike in appearance, speech and mannerisms that even those close to them could not always be certain. They even thought alike. When Alec became only the second ex-professional to be elected a member of the MCC committee, E.W. Swanton recorded: "Alec would say something in committee and an hour later Eric would appear and say exactly the same." They dressed identically and even when miles apart would choose totally similar clothing, even to cufflinks. They had a premium bond win on the same day. To add, good-humouredly, to the confusion, they would refer to each other as "My brother" - no names.
Perhaps the funniest incident, recalled by Alan Hill, concerned the Sydney barber who, having cut Eric's hair, was astounded when Alec arrived 10 minutes later and sat in the chair: "Jesus, mate, I thought I'd just cut your bloody hair. It doesn't take long to grow." To which Alec responded: "It's your hair oil. I'll have to lay off it."
Eric Bedser's status as a cricketer will always cause discussion, in that he was talented enough to have made a much greater impression playing for a county other than Surrey, all-powerful in the 1950s. He took up off-spin in order to differentiate himself from Alec but, with Jim Laker in the side, he was down the pecking order, unused when the ball was turning, and tossed the ball when others had toiled in vain. Some good judges at the Oval maintained he could have been, with his massive hands and ability to give the ball real rip, a Test-class bowler. "Eric," said one contemporary, "was definitely a bowler who batted, not, as the world perceived, a batsman who bowled."
Laker, cruelly, even had a part in blocking Eric's ambitions, for the elder Bedser was chosen to play for the Rest in the famous Test Trial at Bradford in 1950 when Laker took 8-2 for England, one of the very, very few occasions when the Bedsers changed in opposite dressing rooms.
Eric Bedser will be most lovingly remembered at the Oval for his part in maintaining Surrey's supremacy during the mid-1950s when, in several summers, weakened by England's calls on the leading players and harried by an increasingly frustrated Yorkshire, they managed to stay ahead. In 1956, when Surrey won the championship for a fifth successive year, Eric scored 804 runs and took 92 wickets, tantalisingly close to the magic double, and his captain Stuart Surridge commented: "Without him in the side, we might not have won the championship."
Throughout their cricketing career, the Bedsers built up a successful office equipment business in which it was generally accepted that Eric was the major figure until it was absorbed in a takeover by Ryman in 1977.
Both were enthusiastic golfers and over the years reduced their handicap, naturally, to the same figure, 5. Eric finished with 14,716 runs at an average of 24.01 in his 23 years of Surrey service and took 833 wickets at 24.95 each. He four times took 10 wickets in a match and his highest score was 163 against Nottinghamshire in 1949. He was elected president of Surrey in 1990.
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