JOHN EDRICH was one of the best and bravest batsmen ever to strap on a pair of pads for England.
Edrich, who has died aged 83, is one of only 25 men in history to score 100 first-class centuries with twelve coming in Test cricket, seven of them against Australia.
In his early years, left-handed opener Edrich was a prodigious six-hitter and his 310 not out against New Zealand at Headingley in 1965 remains the international innings with most boundaries – 52 fours and five sixes.
By the end, Edrich morphed into an obdurate accumulator who stood up to the world’s fastest bowlers before the era of helmets.
He suffered many broken bones but prospered because he was courageous and played within his limitations.
Dickie Bird, the famous umpire, described his apparently modest 34 against Australia on a damp, difficult pitch at Edgbaston in 1975 as the greatest innings he ever saw.
In 1976, on a brutal Saturday evening at Old Trafford, Edrich, then aged 39, and 45-year-old Brian Close survived a savage, short-pitched battering for 80 minutes from a cluster of West Indies fast bowlers.
A spectator helped reduce the war-zone atmosphere by trotting out with a 12-inch wide joke bat for Edrich.
After play, as they compared bruises, Edrich burst into laughter. “What so funny, Edie?” asked Close. “I’ve just looked at the scoreboard for the first time, Closey. And you’re one not out."
Neither man played for England again.
The previous summer, Edrich scored 175 against Australia at Lord’s in the match when a streaker called Michael Angelow ran naked across the outfield and hurdled the stumps.
On the radio, commentator John Arlott called him a “freaker” by mistake.
Edrich’s hundredth hundred arrived in 1977 while batting against Derbyshire, a couple of weeks before Geoff Boycott reached the milestone in the more glamorous setting of an Ashes Test.
In 2000, Edrich was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia and given seven years to live but he moved to Scotland and enjoyed another two decades after injections of mistletoe extract cured the cancer.
He was a fighter to the end.
Edrich came from a famous cricketing family who occasionally fielded an Edrich XI.
John’s cousin Bill Edrich was one of the Middlesex twins who with Denis Compton brought joy and thousands of runs to Lord’s in the immediate post-War years.
Quite a character was Bill. He was married five times and one guest, J.J.Warr, when asked at the church if he had an invite, replied: “No, I’ve got a season ticket.”
John Edrich was my favourite cricketer growing up.
The similarity of our names was one reason and another was that my first copy of Wisden – cricket’s annual ‘bible’ – was the 1960 edition costing 6d (two-and-a-half pence) in a jumble sale. It reported the 1959 summer when Edrich piled on the runs.
I got to know him quite well during his time as England’s batting coach under supremo Ray Illingworth and my wife, in one of her more amorous moments, once scribbled a fax and sent it to our hotel in Kimberley, South Africa, on the 1995-96 tour.
My pet name for her is ‘Inny,’ which looked a little like ‘Illy’ in her scrawl. The fax went to the wrong room and it’s fair to say Edrich was a touch confused receiving a piece of paper on which was written: “My darling John, I love you, I miss you and I want to kiss you. All my love, Inny (Illy).”
It took him two days to work it out before, eventually, he handed me the fax and said: “I think this is for you!”
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