John Edrich: Former England batsman dies aged 83

John Edrich (centre) was England batting coach when Ray Illingworth was in charge during the 1990s
John Edrich (centre) was England batting coach when his former Test captain Raymond Illingworth (left) was in charge during the 1990s

Former England batsman John Edrich has died at the age of 83.

The left-hander played 77 Tests for England, making 12 centuries and finishing with an average of 43.54.

A Surrey legend, he made 39,790 first-class runs overall from 564 matches, including 103 centuries - one of only 25 men to compile 100 first-class tons.

He was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2000 but lived long past the seven years he was given at that time and died of natural causes at his home in Scotland.

Edrich believed injections of mistletoeexternal-link which he received from 2005 extended his life and enabled him to cope with a rare form of the blood cancer.

He made his Test debut against West Indies at Old Trafford in 1963 and finished against the same opposition on the same ground 13 years later.

The opener top scored with 24 in the second innings of his last Test in 1976 as England were bowled out for 126 by West Indies' formidable pace attack on an uneven pitch to lose by 425 runs.

His characteristic bravery was illustrated in that final Test innings at the age of 39 as he and opening partner Brian Close, 45, stoically defended for 80 minutes at the end of Saturday's play in the face of fearsome bowling by Andy Roberts, Wayne Daniel and Michael Holding.

Batting without helmets or chest protectors, Edrich was unbeaten on 10 and Close on one at the close and they took the score to 54 in the next day's play before the former was out for the final time in a Test - bowled by Daniel.

Close, bowled by Roberts for 20 soon after, also did not play for England again. They were the only England players to reach 20 in the innings.

John Edrich made his 100th first-class century, against Derbyshire at The Oval
Edrich made his 100th first-class century in 1977, against Derbyshire at The Oval

Edrich, awarded a MBE for services to cricket in 1977, compiled his career-high innings of 310 not out against New Zealand at Headingley in 1965.

He hit 52 fours - the highest number in any Test innings - as well as five sixes in an innings that lasted eight minutes short of nine hours and is the fifth-highest score by an England player.

Named one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year in 1966, Edrich was admired for his defence and temperament but was also renowned for his cut shot and was prolific through the mid-wicket area.

He captained Surrey for five seasons and led England once, when Mike Denness dropped himself for the fourth Test on the 1974-75 tour of Australia.

Edrich's unbeaten 33 in his Test as captain was notable for the fact he had two ribs broken by the first ball he faced from Australia fast bowler Dennis Lillee but returned from hospital to resume his innings with the Ashes on the line.

Edrich repelled Lillee and Jeff Thomson for nearly four hours but ran out of partners at the other end with the draw that would have kept the series alive in sight.

That innings in Sydney was an example of his ability to excel against the era's premier pace attacks from West Indies and especially Australia, against whom seven of his dozen Test centuries were made.

He averaged 48.96 in 32 matches against England's fiercest rival and that figure rose to 55.78 in Ashes Tests on Australian soil.

His opening partnership with the similarly doughty Geoffrey Boycott - a classic right-and-left combination at the top of the order - was one of the key reasons England regained the Ashes in 1971-72.

"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," said Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

"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."

Edrich played in the first one-day international, opening the batting with regular Test partner Boycott against Australia at the MCG in January 1971.

He hit the first boundary in the new format, a trademark clip through mid-wicket, on the way to a man-of-the-match innings of 82 off 119 balls as England made 190 from 39.4 overs.

Edrich played in a further six ODIs, averaging 37.16 with a highest score of 90 and a strike rate of 68.61.

John Edrich flanked by Ray Illingworth and Geoffrey Boycott as England prepared to record 'The Ashes Song' in 1971
John Edrich flanked by Ray Illingworth and Geoffrey Boycott as England prepared to record 'The Ashes Song' in 1971

Born in Norfolk, the cousin of former England batsman Bill, he played for Surrey for 20 years from 1958 and his 29,305 runs is the fourth-highest total in the history of the county.

Surrey fans voted for Edrich to open the batting alongside Sir Jack Hobbs in their 'Greatest XI' and the John Edrich Gates at the Pavilion End of the Kia Oval is a permanent reminder of his loyal service to the county.

"John Edrich was truly one of the greatest players to ever play for our club and his passing is an incredibly sad moment for us all," said Surrey chairman Richard Thompson.

"From watching his brave and charismatic batting to sitting alongside him in our committee room and learning about the game, to have been able to call John a friend was a high honour."

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