Fred Trueman died on July 1st, 2006, after a short battle with lung cancer. Trueman was by any measure on of the cricketing giants, both through his performances on the field, and the sheer force of his personality. One of the most aggressive bowlers ever seen on a cricket field, his belligerent attitude occasionally got him into trouble with umpires and management, but made him immensely popular with crowds.
He was not a tall man, but his exceptionally broad shoulders in combination with his powerful, cartwheeling action enabled him to bowl at a searing pace in his younger days. His run-up was long by the standards of the day, and starting with a couple of walking paces progressively accelerated to the stumps; his delivery stride was long, with the rear toe dragging, perfectly side on, and balanced. John Arlott likened his delivery to a charging bull “controlled violence, precisely applied in a movement of rippling speed”. The follow-on was long, leaving the bowler in an ideal position to exchange a few words with the batsman. As he returned to his mark, the right shirt sleeve, that inevitably had come loose was rolled back up into position, ready for another charge.
Trueman's best weapon was the ability to move the ball away from the batsman at speed. He had an excellent yorker, a well disguised slower ball, and, of course, a fast and nasty bouncer. Adaptable to circumstances he ran through an Australian Test side in 1961 bowling cutters off a shortened run.
In his early years he took wickets with sheer pace, notably on his Test debut when he devastated the 1952 Indian tourists at Headingley, reducing them to 0/4 in their 2nd innings. As he matured, so did his bowling, and towards the end of his career he sacrificed pace for variation and accuracy. He was at his best in classical English conditions, where his late out-swing was combined with movement off the seam.
One of the great characters of the game, he had little understanding of cricket politics, and little interest in compromise; and was left out of the England side on occasion for non-cricketing reasons. He took 29 wickets in his debut series at 13.31 against the 1952 Indians, and left Test cricket 13 years later with a then record 307 wickets at a strike rate of 49.4 and an average of 21.57. 2304 first class wickets came at an average of under 20. At Test level he was perhaps at his best when partnered with Brian Statham- both great bowlers of contrasting styles. He on occasion captained his county, notably leading them to victory over the 1968 Australian tourists.
He was a useful hard-hitting lower order bat (with three first-class centuries), and would have made many more runs if he had put his mind to it. He was a superb fieldsman, particularly at short leg, and had the ability to throw well with either hand.
After he left Yorkshire, he played for Derbyshire in limited overs matches in 1972 and became a regular commentator on cricket and a notable TV personality. He published his autobiography in 2004 entitled “As it was” – a typically forthright tale, but also surprisingly revealing.
On a personal note, Fred took five wickets on the first day of cricket I ever watched, against Australia at Lord’s in 1964. I can still see in my mind’s eye his characteristic slightly curved run up to the wicket and delivery with arm high. It was a most fortunate introduction to Test cricket. Later that summer he dismissed Neil Hawke for his 300th Test wicket, as his career drew towards its end.
(Article: Copyright © 1999 Dave Liverman)