Bailey was a clever tactician

S. THANTHONI

You could not have wished for a better man to fight for his country than Trevor Edward Bailey, accurate fast medium bowler, stern defensive batsman and sharp slip fielder. By Ted Corbett.

The tragic death in a fire at home of Trevor Bailey brought back to many of us the way we were when he was building his reputation as the finest England all-rounder of his era.

Now — 57 years on from his great rearguard action at Lord's in the Ashes series of 1953 — the ways of understanding the state of the world are legion. It has not always been so.

Radio takes us from half an hour before the start of play to half an hour afterwards, TV covers much the same time span, the internet is there either as back-up or first choice. There are a variety of phone links to any part of the cricket planet; it is difficult enough to escape what is occurring.

On Bailey's biggest day communications were completely different. TV consisted of a scratchy ten minutes at the close of play; radio dipped in and out of the game.

“No more than two thirds of the day's play was broadcast,” says Peter Baxter, veteran producer of Test Match Special. “It was not until BBC missed many of the wickets as Jim Laker took 19 at Old Trafford in 1956 that the bosses realised they really ought to go over to ball-by-ball all day.”

So how did we manage with so little information; how did we know what a stupendous innings Bailey was playing in partnership with Willie Watson as England tried to prevent defeat.

Still I remember being just as excited about the Ashes in 1953 as we were in 2005, 2009 and this winter.

We had won them in the Bodyline series of 1932-3, been beaten at home in 1934 and in Australia — after gaining a 2-0 lead — in 1936-7. We could only draw the 1938 series — many thought we might win in Australia on the next tour when war intervened. After the Second World War defeats came thick and fast.

By the end of the 1950-1 trip there was a new air about the England team and Len Hutton's side was expected to win in 1953. In the end it need four and a half hours of tenacity by Bailey as he and Watson put on 168 and another example of trench warfare by Bailey at Headingley for England to win the tiny trophy back at the Oval.

You could not have wished for a better man to fight for his country than Trevor Edward Bailey, accurate fast medium bowler, stern defensive batsman and sharp slip fielder. He was also a clever tactician who had a knack of getting along with everyone and who might have produced even better performances from Fred Trueman, Frank Tyson and the rest.

Bailey had stamina aplenty whether he was prodding forward with a straight bat for hours on end and at Essex where he was captain, star batsman, toiling bowler, assistant secretary and club secretary during his 20 years with that county.

He has been painted as a grumbler in articles about his death, but there was another side to this great cricket man. He was also kindly, helpful to young ones.-AP

Battling Bailey they called him. Barnacle Bailey was another newspaper nickname. The Boil was the jokers' favourite because that is how the Cockneys at Ilford and Colchester used to pronounce his name. Those men of East London loved him because he was a fighter like their beloved heavyweight Henry Cooper.

When he retired he took over as cricket correspondent of the Financial Times. Not an easy task as I know to my cost although he had more words to play with than I was given. “It's status old man,” he consoled me. “Think of the prestige.”

He also wrote a new chapter in the book of his life as a trenchant commentator on Test Match Special. Like many former players he was not lavish in his praise for minor triumphs but he had a devotion to the work of Ian Botham, a totally different all-rounder that ignored the passage of time.

Botham defended by hitting the ball into the crowd. One sometimes doubted if the Bailey defensive prod would reach all the way back to the bowler but each in his own way was effective and both were heart and soul fighting for their side.

Off duty Bailey spoke his mind even more fiercely than he did on air. I once heard him answer a reporter after the Australians had won the day at Leeds.

He said: “Greater men than me have admired and praised the Aussie cricketer. I just hate every one of them.” His grin as he turned on his heel and walked off could only mean he had enjoyed that rejoinder more than anything else that day.

Sadly, Bailey — like his pal Trueman, another old giant who found a new life as a cricket pundit — was sacked in a way which did no one any credit.

Years later I saw him at a BBC reception to mark 50 years of Test Match Special. He looked so sad that I can only think he had realised he had no place there among young men of half his stature and a quarter of his understanding.

A few days before his death Trevor was as bright as a new ball once again, pleased the opening of the season was coming and anticipating great moments for England.

He has been painted as a grumbler in articles about his death, but there was another side to this great cricket man. He was also kindly, helpful to young ones like me and loved the game for all it had not always treated him perfectly.