Sir Alec Victor Bedser was the leading English bowler of the early post-war years and an automatic choice for his country until 1954/55. Along with his twin brother Eric, he joined the Surrey staff in 1938 only to have his early career interrupted by the Second World War. When it resumed in 1946 he walked straight into the England side and began a distinguished international career by taking eleven wickets in each of his first two Tests. Over the next decade he was to collect a total of 236 wickets from 51 appearances (surpassing Clarrie Grimett's, then, all-time record of 216). For Surrey, he captured an additional 1,459 throughout their glorious run in the county championship and up until 1960, when he decided to call it a day.

Tall and powerfully built, he was a model bowler with an action that was a marvel of economy. He took a relatively short run-up, but from the swing of his massive body he extracted maximum bounce from the pitch, whilst allowing himself to maintain accuracy at a fast-medium pace over long periods. Bedser's main delivery was the in-swinger with which he had many of his great opponents, Bradman included, caught at backward short leg. He also possessed a slightly slower leg-cutter which, on a wet pitch, was like being bowled a fast leg-break.

Alec Bedser (second from the left) takes the field with Len Hutton and the rest of the England team in 1953.
In 1946 Alec became only the third Surrey bowler (John Beaumont and Neville Knox being the others) to take a hundred first-class wickets in his first full season with 128 victims at an average of 20.13. After his instant success for England - when he took eleven for 145 in the Lord's Test and eleven for 93 at Old Trafford against India - he toured Australia and New Zealand with Wally Hammond's MCC side in 1946/47 and featured, albeit less significantly, in all six Tests.

It was four years later, though, on the 1950/51 tour, when Bedser really began to earn himself a world-class reputation by claiming 30 Test wickets at 16.06 runs apiece, including ten for 105 at Melbourne. On his return he captured thirty more (Av'ge 17.23) against South Africa. In 1952 he enjoyed yet another successful home series against India with 20 victims at an average of 13.95.

The salad year, however, was 1953 when England celebrated victory over Hassett's Australians. Alec was seemingly invincible in taking 39

wickets, then a record for any bowler in an "Ashes" series, at an average of 17.48. Starting with an aggregate fourteen for 99 at Trent Bridge (7/55 and 7/44), he went on to collect 5/105 at Lord's, 5/115 and 2/14 at Old Trafford, 6/95 at Headingley and, finally, 3/88 in the first innings at the Oval. After contracting shingles he appeared only once during the 1954/55 series, which was dominated by Tyson and Statham after his poor performance in the defeat at Brisbane, where his Test career was effectively ended.

Surrey's championship run from 1952 to 1958 was understandably littered with Bedser records. In the first year they won the title he took 13/46 in the match against Nottinghamshire. Fourteen for 49 came at Cardiff in 1956, he recorded 12 wickets in a match on two occasions, 11 on three more and 8 wickets in an innings a total of four times. His record during this time being as follows:

Year Overs Mdns Runs Wkts Average
1952 876.2 211 1885 117 16.12
1953 831.4 241 1649 98 16.83
1954 769.4 242 1404 99 14.18
1955 1008.5 277 2307 131 17.61
1956 902.5 250 1950 96 20.31
1957 1032.4 267 2170 131 16.56
1958 457 169 816 48 17.00

His batting, which was once described as "wooden, but straight", was often useful, especially in the role of night-watchman, as when he scored 79 against an Australian attack that included Lindwall, Miller, Johnston and Toshack at Headingley in 1948. But, surprisingly, Alec only managed one century in first-class cricket, for Surrey at Taunton in 1947. Whilst hardly being a Nijinsky in the field, he was also an eminently safe catcher due to the fact that he had such a large pair of hands.

Soon after retirement from the game Bedser was made an England selector. Serving on the committee for 23 years, twelve of them as Chairman, he has the distinction of helping to choose more Test teams than any other man in cricket history. In 1996 his services to the game were fully realised in the shape of a knighthood. Although a stern critic of the modern era, Sir Alec, accompanied by his brother Eric, rarely misses a day's cricket at the Oval even now.