SURREY GREATS - JIM LAKER
James Charles, or "Jim", Laker was perhaps the best off-spin bowler the game has ever seen. Tall and powerful with a lively action, the power of spin, pace as well as flight he was capable of long accurate spells on good wickets - and devastating ones on those giving assistance. He is best remembered for the remarkable performance of taking 19 wickets for 90 runs in the 1956 Old Trafford Test against Australia; a feat unequalled in the history of the game and unlikely to be surpassed.
Before he was able to represent his native Yorkshire the Second World War broke out. During his tour of duty with the ROAC in the Middle East, however, Jim Laker displayed great potential in the good class of cricket played at Cairo where he picked up valuable experience bowling to names such as Dudley Nourse, Tom Dollery, Arthur Wellard, George Emmett, Peter Smith, Sam Pothecary, Bert Sutcliffe and Tom Prichard.
On his return to England he served out his days in the Army at the War Office in London, then embarked on a career in banking before he was persuaded by Surrey to play cricket professionally. In his first full season, 1947, Jim finished top of the Surrey - and seventh in the National - bowling averages and was selected for the MCC winter tour of the West Indies. On his debut in the first Test he took seven for 103 in the second innings at Barbados, including 6/25 in the last nine overs on a pitch which had been freshened by rain.
Sadly, his later years with Surrey as a player were marred by disagreements
and after his retirement in 1959 he wrote a controversial book entitled 'Over To
Me', which caused the MCC to withdraw his Honorary Membership and Surrey his
pavilion privileges (though both were later restored). Jim became specially
registered for Essex in 1962 and appeared for them on and off for three seasons,
in which he took his tally of first-class wickets to 1,944 at an average of
18.40. At the time of his death on 23 April 1986, aged 64, Laker was Chairman of
Surrey's cricket committee and a well established BBC television cricket
commentator. With a thorough knowledge of the game he was an uncomplicated
arbiter and, though outspoken, was never considered to be unfair.