Sunday, 25 August 2013

Cricketers in Wartime - Bill Edrich

Now that was a close game of cricket. I remain very unimpressed by the change to the playing conditions that means the umpires don't get any discretion: the ICC seem to have forgotten that ultimately, the sport is about entertainment as well, and leaving the umpires with no choice but that of disappointing a full house at the Oval when England, clearly, were keen to carry on, was plain dumb.

That aside, nice to see England up to 2nd in the world test rankings, and always nice to see Australia lose a series :D

So. As promised this time - a cricketer who survived the war, and was a heck of a character: Bill Edrich.

You don't have to be that old to remember Bill's cousin John opening for England (my age is enough and to spare), and being the England batting coach in the '90s, but it's safe to say that despite his talents he wasn't the best cricketer in what was a very large family - large enough to raise an entire team of Edriches for local games in Norfolk.

That accolade definitely falls to Squadron Leader William "Bill" Edrich, DFC. Before the war his main claim to fame playing for England in Tests was a score of 219 in the legendary 'Timeless Test' in Durban (a game with no scheduled finish, finally called so England didn't miss the boat home after ten days, only 40-odd runs short of their target - see, it happened even back then!). On top of that he also played amateur football for Norwich and Spurs.

At the start of the war he joined RAF Bomber Command, piloting Blenheims, and was involved in a number of distinctly hairy raids, at one point pretty much only surviving because a German fighter's guns jammed at point blank range. By all accounts, his wartime experiences seem to have left him with the sense that
 'life was for living, not existing. Now was the vital time and he was never unduly concerned about the morrow.' (Trevor Bailey)
This is borne out by numerous off-the-field alcohol-fuelled incidents that would make the present England team's collective hair curl, not to mention five marriages! It also appeared to make him largely fearless as a batsman, willing to stand up to the fastest bowlers of the post-war era.

After the war, he played much more Test cricket, part of the legendary 'Compton and Edrich' partnership that now has two stands named after them at the Oval: in '47 both he and Dennis Compton scored over 3000 first-class runs in the season, which is a figure you won't see anyone manage nowadays!

After retiring from first-class cricket, he captained Norfolk well into his fifties. He died from a fall at the age of 70 in 1986. For more details, including (as far as I'm aware) some more details of his wartime service, check out Bill Edrich: A Biography.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I like these snapshots of personalities that I would normally never hear of. One day, I may even understand cricket.


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