Cricket: Fraser a model of rare modesty
Fifth Test: A fast medium bowler who is anything but ordinary was the catalyst for a long-awaited celebration; England's Trojan was instrumental in the series victory but as usual he shunned the glory. By Henry Blofeld
Tuesday 11 August 1998
He bowled three overs from the Kirkstall Lane End coming down that long, angled run, looking, as always, as if the cares of the world were upon his shoulders. With South Africa as desperate for runs as he was for wickets, he bowled three faultless maidens.
The pressure must have been as acute as even he can have experienced, although those two Test Matches in Port of Spain at the start of the year will have been useful practice. He now bowled his first over to Shaun Pollock. Every ball was on the spot, asking questions of the batsman's defensive technique.
His second over was to Donald. Again, each ball was on a length, probing a slightly more vulnerable than technique than Pollock's. There was nothing in the least stereotyped about his bowling either; every ball was different and one could sense the relief in Donald at the end of the over that he had survived the ordeal.
After each over, Fraser took his sleeveless sweater from the umpire and trudged off to fine leg. There was no visible emotion; no excitement, no disappointment, no eager anticipation either. He was doing a job he has done all his life and which he now does better than anyone else. It was another day at the office and nothing was going to distract him.
Back he trudged for his third over and Donald was still the batsman. In he came again, plodding at the double down that well worn route, like an old fashioned policeman closing in for an arrest. Over came the arm, forward went Donald, the ball thudded into Alec Stewart's gloves and the ecstatic appeal erupted to the heavens.
Up went the umpire's finger and Fraser allowed himself a red-faced grin as he was submerged by his colleagues. But there was still work to be done and he did not waste too much time in celebration and by the time the last man, Makhaya Ntini, had arrived at the crease, Fraser was back at his mark waiting in an orderly manner rather than champing at the bit.
Ntini kept out the five remaining balls and Fraser returned to fine leg ready to do it all over again in the over after the next. It never came to that, as Darren Gough accounted for Ntini with the help of another raised umpire's finger that set the bloodhounds on to the replay trail, doing all they could to find a reason why it was not out.
Fraser galloped to the middle to join in the celebrations but even at this moment one got the impression that an inner voice was telling him not to overstep the mark. As the crowd invaded the grounds and Fraser and the others ran off, he will have been satisfied with his morning's work of 3-3-0-1. But, again, nothing over the top.
This year he has taken 51 wickets for England, 27 of them in the West Indies to equal John Snow's record for a series, and now 24 against South Africa - 18 in the last two Tests - and to think many people would have played Alan Mullally ahead of him at Trent Bridge, where he took five in each innings.
Has there ever been a more consummate professional than Angus Fraser or a more admirable cricketer? He received just an honourable mention in the final roll call of the players of the series during the presentations. That will not have worried him. As he fastened his seat-belt before the drive back to London, he will have been content with the satisfaction which comes from knowing that a job has been well done.
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