Fred Trueman 1931-2006: Cricket mourns the departure of Fiery Fred

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The Independent Online

One of the most famous of all the stories about Fred Trueman was his reaction after he became the first man to take 300 Test wickets. Asked if anybody would overtake him he replied: "If they do they'll be bloody tired."

That was 42 years ago, and in the decades since, with so many more matches played, 18 bowlers, though only two Englishmen, have overtaken Fred. They would all testify to the accuracy of his observation.

Trueman became world- famous as a character, a man who epitomised Yorkshireness: tough, curmudgeonly yet amusing. He achieved that rarefied type of fame which meant he was identified immediately by only his first name.

He was a very great fast bowler (and, it is fair to say, he knew it). Geoff Boycott had it in one yesterday when, in paying tribute to his fellow Yorkshireman, he said: "He was a truly great cricketer, and those words are too often used about players who are only very good."

Trueman's record stacks up well against that of anybody else. The 307 Test wickets at 21 in 67 matches, the total of 2,304 first-class wickets at 18, the Test strike- rate of a wicket every 49 balls, the stupendously potent partnership with Brian Statham. He burst on to the scene in 1952, frightening the Indians, first at Headingley, when he reduced them to 0 for 4 in their second innings, and then at Old Trafford, where he took 8 for 31. A star was born and whatever the contrariness of the selectors, which looks even more bizarre at this distance, it never waned.

He was overlooked too often against Australia but reserved perhaps his best performance for them with 11 for 98 at Headingley in 1961. Fred (and Statham) kept going where other bowlers did not endure.

He was assisted by a classical side-on action which was lent an additional romantic quality by his athleticism and mane of swirling dark hair. For the better part of 20 years and more he was an essential part of the national round, pipe man of the year among other things and a perennial card.

When he retired he became a stand-up comedian briefly and then emerged as a national institution once more on the radio programme, Test Match Special, where his informed summaries were not always generous and were often complemented by an exasperated tone. "I just don't know what's going off there," he would say in an accent that had not been remotely impinged upon by world travel.

Fred was also at his best when his daughter married the son of Raquel Welch in the early Nineties. He dealt as easily with the cameras as Miss Welch, and talked amusingly of their meeting. The mind truly boggled.

What should never be forgotten about Trueman is what a bowler he was. He was extremely fast with a lethal outswinger, and little boys wanted to be him.

Brian Close, who played with Trueman in his first match in May 1949 and was his captain at Yorkshire in the Sixties, said simply that he was one of the greatest bowlers of all time. "He was great fun, he always tried, we had our differences but I was the boss, so that was that."

Trueman embodied the notion of a tough fast bowler. But when his old chum Statham (they opened together in 35 matches, still an England record) fell on hard times he organised a benefit. Trueman's humility in talking of Statham was humbling. He always recognised Statham's vital role, and that too said something about Fred.

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