John Edrich in action for England against Pakistan during the second Test match at Lord’s in 1974.

John Edrich in action for England against Pakistan during the second Test match at Lord’s in 1974. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

John Edrich, the stylish left hander of England,  who died aged 83 on 23rd Dec.2020 , after  a prolonged illness  of  leukaemia, was one of the best English top order batsmen of the 20th century.  

He made debut for Surrey county in 1958. When he arrived back at the Oval in 1958, he made his debut in the last game of the season, aged 21. His second match came at the beginning of the 1959 campaign, when he scored centuries in each innings against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, and in quick order he notched up four centuries in his first seven innings.  In  county cricket, Edrich was a leading figure for Surrey and he captained Surrey in his later days and from 1958 to 1978, for Surrey  he accumulated most of his 39,790 career runs, one of the highest tallies in history and at an impressive average of 45.47. By the end of his career, he had also become one of the celebrated cricketers to have scored 100 hundreds (103 in all), putting him in the company of greats such as WG Grace, Jack Hobbs and Wally Hammond.

In spite of his good performances in the county circuit, it took 4 years for the national call as the selectors were skeptical about his unorthodox batting style.  He made 20 & 38 runs in his debut test against the likes of Wes Hall, Griffith of the Windies team.  His greatest attribute was his gritty concentration and discipline coupled with the skill of playing each ball on its merit and at the same time he was ruthless against bad deliveries.  He was gusty against facing the world’s fastest bowlers ,  and took blows of nasty deliveries on his body and had bruises but didn’t sacrifice his wicket.  He was most admired  for his gusty character  and became England’s Mr. Reliable. 

He relishes batting against Australians.  His centuries speaks volume about his penchant for run making against the traditional rivals as 7 of his 12 test hundreds and 2,644 runs at 48.96 in 32 tests and enviable average in Down Under at 55.78.

He played for England between 1963 and 1976 . Short and gusty batsman of his time, he played 77  tests for his country between 1963 and 1976, and had an unenviable  record against the two best sides of his era – Australia and West Indies. In 1970-71, his outstanding batting performances was pivotal in  England’s win the Ashes in Australia for the first time since 1956, and with Geoffrey Boycott in the late 1960s and early 70s he created a formidable opening partnership that provided many good platforms in Test matches. Boycott, right-handed, and Edrich, a left-hander, admired and respected each other, partly because they shared the same hatred of losing. “John had one of the greatest temperaments I’ve ever seen,” said Boycott. “I would rather open an innings with him than anyone.”

It had been a turbulent Test career as he was in and out of theTest  team in the initial stages.  With renewed vigour, Edrich celebrated his selection for the third home Test against New Zealand in 1965 with his 310 not out – but in the following match against South Africa at Lord’s was knocked out and hospitalised by the opening bowler, Peter Pollock, keeping him away from the rest of the series. It was a  quirk of fate  that he had to endure injuries. Forever in the firing line, Edrich broke his fingers very  often that he had to have a piece of leg bone grafted into his hand.

He returned on England’s 1965-66 tour to Australia,  with a blistering style scoring two successive Test centuries at No 3 in Australia . In 1966 he was named one of the Wisden cricketers of the year, and in 1968 he was voted best player in the drawn home Ashes series, in which he averaged 61.55 and scored 50s in five consecutive innings. He made two centuries against West Indies at home and a further pair against New Zealand in the summer of 1969. He remained the mainstay of the England for the next 5 years and also captained one test in 1974-75 series tour of Australia. England lost that game, but he played a courageous knock in the second innings after two of his ribs were broken by the first ball he faced from Dennis Lillee. Dashed off  to hospital, he eventually returned to score 33 not out.  He demonstrated his gusto performance in his  swansong Test, at the age of 39 in 1976, when he opened the innings with Brian Close against West Indies at Old Trafford – and the pair withstood a horribly intimidating barrage of fast bowling to put on 54 for the first wicket out of England’s second innings total of 152. He ended his Test career with 5,138 runs .

His career  best score, 310 not out against New Zealand at Headingly in 1965, which included  52 fours and 5 sixes which is still a world record. 

In 1977, the year he was appointed MBE, Edrich scored his 100th hundred, at the Oval.

He played in the first ever One day international in 1971 against Australia and hit the first four in ODI  with a fine half century ( 82 runs) at MCG and was awarded MOM.  

In 2015, a gate was named after him as “John Edrich” at the Oval ground .

Courtesy : –  John Edrich(right) opening Gate named after him at The Oval in 2015 

“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.”

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