John Edrich, the former England batsman who was renowned as one of the world’s doughtiest players of fast bowling, has died at the age of 83. He died of natural causes on December 23, at his house in north Scotland.
Edrich played 77 Tests between 1963 and 1976, most often as a fearless left-handed opener, scoring 5138 runs at 43.54, and just shy of 40,000 in a first-class career for Surrey that spanned 23 seasons.
His finest hour arguably came during Ray Illingworth’s triumphant Ashes tour of 1970-71, when his haul of 648 runs at 72.00, including two hundreds, were instrumental in England’s 2-0 series win. All told, he made 12 Test hundreds and 24 fifties, including a career-best 310 not out against New Zealand at Headingley in 1965.
“With John’s passing, we’ve lost a prolific and fearless batsman – one of the select few who have scored more than 5,000 runs for England,” ECB CEO Tom Harrison said in a statement. “His duels with some of the world’s best fast bowlers were legendary, and it’s a testament to his ability that his 310 not out against New Zealand in 1965 remains the fifth highest Test score by an English batsman. He will be sadly missed, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
At Sydney in 1974-75, Edrich captained England in a one-off capacity, standing in for Mike Denness, who dropped himself in the midst of a torrid run of form.
Edrich also played a starring role in the first-ever one-day international, at Melbourne in 1970-71, scoring the first boundary in the format, as well as the first half-century, and even claimed the first Player-of-the-Match award for his innings of 82 from 119 balls. However, he could not prevent Australia from taking the first victory, by five wickets.
Edrich’s Test career ended where it began, against West Indies at Old Trafford in 1976, when at the age of 39, he and Brian Close stood firm on the third evening as Michael Holding delivered one of the most ferocious spells of fast bowling of all time.
Thirteen years earlier, it had been Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith testing Edrich’s mettle at the same venue, while in between whiles he came up against a litany of greats, including South Africa’s Peter Pollock, who knocked him cold with a bouncer at Lord’s in 1965, and Dennis Lillee, who left him with two broken ribs after pinning him with a bouncer on the 1974-75 tour.
Edrich hailed from a famous Norfolk cricketing family – his cousin Bill played 39 Tests between 1938 and 1955, while three other cousins also played at county level. In 1958, he made his county debut at the age of 21 in a champion Surrey side that was heading for its seventh consecutive title. It was an inauspicious first match – Surrey were bowled out for 57 in the fourth innings as Edrich arrived at the crease at 7 for 3, but he proved his stomach for the fight with an unbeaten 24.
In retirement, Edrich moved to Aberdeenshire but remained a grandee of the game, serving as president of Surrey in 2006. In 2000, at the age of 63, he was diagnosed with leukaemia and given seven years to live but overcame the disease to endure for another two decades.
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