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  William Howard Frindall (1939–2009), by Clive Mason, 1997 William Howard Frindall (1939–2009), by Clive Mason, 1997
Frindall, William Howard [Bill] (1939–2009), cricket scorer and statistician, was born at Middle House, Dorking Road, Epsom, Surrey, on 3 March 1939, the son of Arthur Howard Frindall (1909–1964), laboratory assistant, later research chemist, and his wife, Evelyn Violet, née McNeill (1909–1999). Given the concentration demanded by his work, it seemed apt that Frindall (named after William Howard Russell, who covered the Crimean War for The Times) was born on the first day of the ‘timeless’ Durban test between South Africa and England, as he seldom tired of pointing out: at ten days it remains the longest match in international cricket annals.

At the time of Frindall's birth his parents lived at 17 Elm Gardens, Banstead, Surrey. Educated at Tadworth county primary and Reigate grammar schools, and a keen cricketer, he was taught to score by a schoolmaster after rain stopped play one afternoon. He studied architecture at Kingston School of Art before national service led to six and a half years (or, as he put it, ‘seasons’) in—and playing cricket for—the RAF, two of them while with NATO.

Frindall became a full-time freelance statistician in 1966, and volunteered his services to Test Match Special almost immediately, following the sudden death of Arthur Wrigley. For Test Match Special he devised a variation of the linear scoring system, influenced by the method conceived by John Atkinson Pendlington and first used in 1893. Unlike conventional scoring, the linear approach employs a column per batsman and a line per over, making it possible to follow the progress of a match ball by ball; Frindall added dimension and detail. He made notes and comments in the margins, recounted Keith Booth, the Surrey scorer and historian, ‘adorned with superscript symbols such as “S” for sprinted run, “X” for played and missed, “T” for hit on thigh pad, etc., etc.’ (Association of County Cricket Scorers website). Each scoring stroke was given an index number indicating the area of the field to which the ball had been played, enabling construction of scoring charts and Frindall's trademark ‘wagon wheels’ (diagrams which showed where each batsman had picked up his runs). In time, he would publish and sell his scoresheets to colleagues the world over, ease of interpretation enhanced by elegant calligraphy.

Amid the jolly japes and chocolate cakes that turned the Test Match Special box into a sixth-form common room, Frindall was regarded as a necessary curmudgeon. ‘If ever we strayed too far away from talking about the cricket,’ recalled the BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew, ‘he would bring us back’ (BBC website, 30 Jan 2009). Asked to nominate his ‘champagne moment’, none the less, Frindall plumped for the four successive sixes struck by India's Kapil Dev to save the follow-on against England at Lord's in 1990. He was an accomplished raconteur and after-dinner speaker whose impressions of Brian Johnston, John Arlott, and Fred Trueman further belied the grey image of a scorer. A prolific editor and compiler, he maintained the Wisden records section for twenty-two years, produced twenty-three editions of the Playfair Cricket Annual, five of The Wisden Book of Test Cricket, and four of The Wisden Book of Cricket Records in addition to six editions of Frindall's Score Book. He was The Times cricket statistician and cricket archivist to the late Sir Paul Getty's estate, and also enjoyed a brief stint as cricket correspondent of the Mail on Sunday.

If he transformed his profession in a number of ways, the most improbable of Bill Frindall's achievements was that he made it a path to celebrity. Nicknamed ‘Bearders’ and ‘the Bearded Wonder’ by Johnston, his fruity colleague on Test Match Special, he lent personality as well as gravitas to his unfashionable labours. ‘Bill single-handedly elevated a pretty obscure craft,’ Matthew Engel, editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, later observed, ‘because he made it seem important to vast numbers of people’ (Daily Telegraph, 31 Jan 2009). His memoir, Bearders: my Life in Cricket, was published in 2006.

Frindall married first, at All Saints' Church, Banstead, Surrey, on 12 March 1960, Maureen Doris Wesson (b. 1939), daughter of Ernest George Wesson, fishmonger. They had two sons and a daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 1970, and on 30 May the same year, at Haringey register office, Frindall married Jacqueline Rose Seager (b. 1946), computer programmer, and daughter of Albert George Seager, scales mechanic. This marriage was dissolved in 1980, and on 29 February 1992, at Devizes register office, Frindall married Deborah Margaret (Debbie) Brown (b. 1953), headteacher, and daughter of Alexander Henderson Brown, factory manager. They had one daughter.

Frindall remained an enthusiastic player into his sixties. A keen middle-order batsman and swing bowler, he founded the Maltamaniacs and also played for MCC, Singapore, France, and Hampshire second eleven (‘We were desperate’, insisted Arlott, a Hampshire supporter). In 1984 he became the inaugural president of British Blind Sport and in 1998 was awarded an honorary doctorate by Staffordshire University for his contribution to statistics. He was appointed MBE in 2004, and later became patron of the German umpires and scorers association as well as the German cricket board.

In all Frindall scored 377 test matches and hundreds of one-day internationals for the BBC before contracting legionnaires' disease while on tour with the Lord's Taverners in Dubai. At the time of his death, at the Great Western Hospital, Swindon, on 30 January 2009, he was the longest serving member of the Test Match Special team, having clocked up more than forty-two years. Such was his popularity, the subsequent test match in Jamaica saw the England team wear black armbands. He was survived by his wife Debbie and his four children. His funeral at his local church, St Michael and All Angels, Urchfont, Wiltshire, on 13 February was attended by numerous former colleagues from the cricket and broadcasting worlds. ‘He brought scoring alive’, attested Agnew. According to Peter Baxter, the long-time Test Match Special producer, he was trusted to such an extent ‘that if he said the scoreboard was wrong, we'd go with him not the scoreboard’ (BBC website, 30 Jan 2009).

Rob Steen

Sources  

P. Baxter and P. McNeill, eds., From Arlott to Aggers: 40 years of Test Match Special (1997) · W. Frindall, Bearders: my life in cricket (2006) · ‘Cricket world mourns death of Frindall’, BBC website, 30 Jan 2009, news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/7861363.stm, accessed on 26 March 2012 · The Times (31 Jan 2009); (2 Feb 2009); (5 Feb 2009) · Daily Telegraph (31 Jan 2009) · The Guardian (2 Feb 2009); (3 Feb 2009) · The Independent (3 Feb 2009) · Wiltshire Gazette and Herald (4 Feb 2009); (8 Feb 2009); (13 Feb 2009) · Wisden (2010) · www.beardedwonder.co.uk/, accessed on 26 March 2012 · countyscorers.com/Tributes/BillFrindall.html, accessed on 26 March 2012 · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.

Archives  

 

SOUND

 

BL NSA, light entertainment recording · BL NSA, performance recording


Likenesses  

M. Fresco, group portrait, photograph, 1978, Rex Features, London · M. Fresco, group portrait, photograph, 1978, Rex Features, London · photographs, 1985–2007, Getty Images [see illus.] · photographs, 1985–2007, Getty Images · J. Galsworthy, c.2004, repro. in J. Galsworthy and J. Vigors, Lords of cricket: players, personalities and legends (2005), 125 · J. Galsworthy, c.2004, repro. in J. Galsworthy and J. Vigors, Lords of cricket: players, personalities and legends (2005), 125 · R. Naden, group portrait, photographs, 2007, PA Images, London · R. Naden, group portrait, photographs, 2007, PA Images, London · J. Walton, photographs, 2008, PA Images, London · J. Walton, photographs, 2008, PA Images, London · obituary photographs · obituary photographs

Wealth at death  

£1,023,431: probate, 12 June 2009, CGPLA Eng. & Wales · £1,023,431: probate, 12 June 2009, CGPLA Eng. & Wales