But for a sprouting of outstanding England pace bowlers this hero of the great Surrey side of the 1950s would have played many more Tests writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins
PETER LOADER was genial company off the field but a feared and fiery competitor for Surrey in the 1950s, their years of unprecedented and probably unrepeatable success. In any other era ‘Scrubs’ – so called because of hair tightly crinkled like a scrubbing brush – must have played far more often for England than he did.
With his long, vigorous, arm-pumping run he carried the same sort of menace for visitors to The Oval as Sylvester Clarke many years later. Loader was not nearly so strapping of build, though, and more like another Barbadian of Clarke’s period, Malcolm Marshall. He was not especially tall and certainly not muscular but a wiry strength and a whip in the wrist and arm gave him genuine pace and a bouncer of particular venom.
He developed a clever command of both inswing and out, using the width of the crease with cunning and changing his pace deliberately. Only when, occasionally, he lost his temper did he also lose his accuracy. Of modern bowlers, Dominic Cork, the next England bowler after Loader to take a Test hat-trick, comes to mind as a spiritual son. Like Cork he had the hunter’s instinct, scenting a weak-willed victim and several more wickets once he had taken one.
But Loader was quicker. The mayhem I saw him create one evening at The Oval, as Somerset collapsed in the gloaming following a characteristic Stuart Surridge declaration, was typical.
In their run of seven Championships from 1952 to 1958 Surrey had an incomparable attack with Alec Bedser, Loader, Jim Laker and Tony Lock. Loader provided the extra edge with the new ball once he had established himself with 80 wickets at under 20 each in his second season in 1953. Nine for 28 against Kent illuminated his potential.
He was born in Wallington and played his club cricket for Beddington, first turning out for the county as an amateur in 1951. Surridge and Alec Bedser advocated tree-felling as a winter activity to build upper-body muscles. But pace came naturally and hostility too.
It gave him great satisfaction to dismiss Len Hutton for nought and one at The Oval in 1955, thereby making his point that he should have had a place in the Ashes-winning side in Australia in 1954-55. He had not because, once Bedser and the idea of a fast-bowling barrage had been abandoned by Hutton after the Brisbane Test, the way was barred by the even faster Frank Tyson, the still more accurate Brian Statham and the more versatile Trevor Bailey. Loader still managed 41 wickets at 19.92 in Australia and New Zealand.
He had made his first appearance for England the previous season against Pakistan at The Oval, taking three cheap wickets in helpful conditions after returning 7 for 37 for the Players against the Gentlemen. These performances enabled the selectors to prefer him to Fred Trueman for Australia.
He bowled well without much luck in South Africa in 1956-57 before his greatest performance, 6 for 36 against West Indies at Headingley in 1957. No less a trio than Sobers, Worrell and Weekes were swept away in one spell before John Goddard, Sonny Ramadhin and Roy Gilchrist became the victims of the first hat-trick by an English bowler in a home Test since JT Hearne’s in 1899.
Injuries and illness made for an unlucky 1958-59 Ashes tour, more than compensated by meeting the love of his life. From 1963 he settled in Western Australia, where he and his wife Jocelyn were generous hosts, not least to Tony Lock. Loader played one game for Western Australia before earning his living with a taxi business and occasional cricket broadcaster. He took up umpiring, enjoyed it and remained a first-grade official until illness intervened.
Peter James Loader was born on October 25, 1929 and died on March 15, 2011, aged 81.
Christopher Martin-Jenkins is a former cricket correspondent of The Times