Alec Bedser Biography
Bedser was not a bowler of great pace, but he could hustle through and surprise the batsman. His run-up consisted of three walked paces followed by nine gigantic strides. As he reached the crease he would land on his left foot with his left arm pointing towards the heavens. A brisk pivot would follow involving a classical side-on position. The right arm would be high up when the ball was released, and would trace almost a full circle with the follow-through. The pace was generated with the concentrated effort in those few steps and final projection. He often came off the wicket at unexpected rates. Because of his short run-up, wicketkeepers generally preferred standing up to the wicket but had to be gifted with special ability to handle the sudden accelerations. Thankfully the man who kept to him for England was Godfrey Evans.
With exceptional line and length, Bedser’s most used weapon was the late in-swing in conjunction with deliveries that either held their course or drifted away. And later he added the leg-cutter that outwitted Don Bradman in Australia. As he claimed later on, often the ball darted through like a fast leg-break. He dismissed Bradman often, getting him caught in the leg-trap on several occasions. And then Arthur Morris was his bunny.
His prodigious skills were conspicuous from the very day he took eleven wickets on his debut against the touring Indians of 1946. But, during his initial few years, till the end of the decade, he struggled without support from the other end.
As many as 11 bowlers shared the new ball with Bedser during these years, and the lack of firepower to respond to the thunderbolts of Lindwall and Miller was embarrassingly evident. Some were way past their primes, chugging on the residual greatness of their Bodyline days. Even Bill Bowes and Bill Voce did open the bowling with Bedser after 1946, so pitiable were the fast bowling resources of post-War England. There were some earnest but limited operators, many with chunks of their careers eaten away by the War. England also used Bill Edrich as an opening bowler, to fling down some fast-paced stuff for a couple of overs. Not until Trevor Bailey’s debut in 1949 was there any vision of permanence at the other end. And it was only in 1951 that Brian Statham emerged and a year later Fred Trueman. By then, Bedser was in his mid-thirties, overworked, stretched to the limits, used as the strike as well the stock bowler.
And then there were the thousand-plus overs sent down every summer for Surrey, where twin brother Eric was another stalwart with his off breaks.
From 1950 onwards started the glorious run of this extraordinary bowler. 30 wickets in the 1950-51 Ashes followed by another 30 when South Africa visited in the 1951 summer. 20 more came next year against the hapless Indians already petrified by the fearsome pace of Trueman. However, Bedser’s moment of supreme triumph came during the summer of 1953 when Lindsay Hassett’s Australians came over to defend the Ashes.
In those five Tests, Bedser scalped 39 at 17.48 each. At Headingley he went past the world record of 216 wickets till then held by Clarrie Grimmett. He retired as the holder of the world record with 236 wickets at 24.90 apiece. Later he served as a member of the selection committee for a quarter of a century, 13 of those years as Chairman.