'Barnacle' Bailey: 'A tower of strength. He was one of a kind and a sad loss'

The great England and Essex all-rounder died yesterday, aged 87. He will be remembered for his wholehearted approach
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The Independent Online

It was the Australians who gave Trevor Bailey the nickname "Barnacle". And while there was a great deal more to his game than obdurate, they-shall-not-pass batting, the man himself was happy to go along with the image – even to the extent that his autobiography was entitled Wickets, Catches and the Odd Run.

In fact, Bailey – who died yesterday in a house fire at his home in Westcliff, Essex at the age of 87 – was a terrific all-round sportsman who not only stamped his name into Ashes history but also played football against Manchester United in front of a crowd of 55,000, albeit as an amateur.

Statistics tell a fair amount of the Bailey cricket story: he played 61 Tests for England in a 10-year international career, scoring more than 2,000 runs at an average of almost 30, taking 132 wickets (at 29 apiece) and played in the England side that won three consecutive Ashes series during the 1950s.

But it was the manner in which Bailey played the game that impressed friend and foe far more than figures ever could.

"In the England team of the 1950s Trevor was a tower of strength – a great all-rounder with a cast-iron temperament," said Doug Insole, Bailey's lifelong pal. "We played football and cricket for Cambridge University and were colleagues in the Essex side for about 15 years. He was one of a kind and a very sad loss to his many friends."

Bailey spent his entire first-class career with Essex, captaining the county in the 1960s before becoming club secretary. But prior to then, when it was still possible to play cricket and football at a high level, he regularly appeared – as a striker – for both Leytonstone and Walthamstow Avenue in an era when 100,000 spectators would watch the Amateur Cup final at Wembley.

"I cannot remember playing a Saturday home match at either of my two clubs before fewer than 5,000 people," he recalled in his autobiography. "For Amateur Cup games gates would be at least 9,000, and more for FA Cup matches.

While Bailey was distinctly modest about his football skills – "I never mastered the double shuffle, my left foot was no more than a reasonable swinger, I never sold a convincing dummy, I could not climb high..." – his cricket ability was not in any doubt. "He was one of the finest all-rounders this country has ever produced," said Giles Clarke, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Bailey is perhaps best remembered for the four hours or so he batted against Australia at Lord's in 1953 while helping England to save a Test that had looked lost. Important at the time, that innings became priceless a few weeks later when the home side won the final match of the series to regain the Ashes by a scoreline of 1-0.

But it was not only as a player that Bailey did his bit for cricket. He wrote about the game for the Financial Times and, as long-time fans of Test Match Special will know, spoke about it on the radio as a summariser for 26 years.

"He was a tremendous colleague, a great friend and man – I shall miss him hugely," said Henry Blofeld, a former colleague of Bailey's on TMS. "To work with, he was exactly like he was as a cricketer. Trevor was canny and let nothing pass. He hated people who were never giving all. It was like the way he batted and bowled.

"He hasn't been well for some time and found life a bit of a struggle, but going the way he did is most unfair."

Bailey was found dead by fire-fighters early yesterday morning. A woman, believed to be his wife, Greta, was rescued from the house by fire crews and although an investigation is under way, the cause of the blaze is not thought to be suspicious.

As for the last word on Bailey's life, that should come from the man himself. "What I failed to realise early enough, except in the sporting field, was that nothing which is really worth having can be acquired without hard work," he wrote in his book. "Despite this weakness I can claim that I have been remarkably successful in my pursuit of happiness."

Trevor Bailey

Born 3 December 1923, Essex

County career 1946-67 Essex

International career 1949-59, 61 Tests for England

Test debut v New Zealand, Headingley, June 1949

Test record

Batting Matches 61 Runs 2,290 HS 134* Ave 29.74 100 1 50 10

Bowling Wickets 132@29.21 BB1 7-34 5w 5 10w 1

* Nicknamed 'Barnacle' because of his batting style, Bailey helped England regain the Ashes in 1953.

* Took almost six hours to score slowest first-class 50, against Australia in 1958.

* At football Bailey won the FA Amateur Cup with Walthamstow Avenue in 1952 and a year later was in the side that drew with Manchester United in the FA Cup.