Fiery Fred

Mention a cricketer’s name and immediately certain images are recalled to mind.

Whatever the reason those images are firmly entrenched into your memory. One such memory for me is of former English cricketer Fred Trueman.

Fred Trueman was truly one of the great characters of cricket. I was fortunate to see him play in a Test against the Aussies at the MCG in the early 60’s. I remember watching him as he charged into bowl; a strong body supported by those stocky bow legs of his, a rolling rollicking gait rocking from side to side as he gathered pace nearing the stumps. Shiny, well oiled black hair flopped over his forehead and into his eyes as he stared menacingly at the batsmen. Always, a maximum effort was given to each ball bowled. And every ball bowled he expected a wicket; and if that didn’t happen, a wide eyed steely glare was transfixed on the batsmen. The implication being that it was only a matter of time before his wicket was Fred’s.

On this particular day and early in Australia’s second innings Fred struck with a venom taking consecutive wickets. Firstly, Bobby Simpson was bowled playing backwards to a ball that appeared to keep low after being softened up by some nasty bouncers beforehand; and very next ball, Norm O’Neill skies a ball hooking off the middle stump, only to be caught by Colin Cowdrey jogging sedately around from slips. Unfortunately, an over ambitious shot from a batsmen out of form and sadly not the shot to play first ball of your innings.

At the end of the over, as Fred confidently strutted back to his position on the boundary, a real swagger in his step, slicking and flicking back his hair with his fingers, he pulled on his cap, waved to the crowd in acknowledgement of their applause and then his next action has remained forever implanted in my memory; he took a bow. But not just any bow. He stopped, raised his head to the skies, stretched his arms wide, crossed his legs and then with a flourish, perhaps a romantic flourish, he doffed his cap as he bent low, the loyal servant saluting his master. It seemed for such a long time that he held the bow but it was probably only a matter of seconds. But the crowd was dumbfounded; they didn’t know what to make of it or what to do! Most of us had never seen a reaction like this on a sporting field before. And Fred was enjoying our response. He had us in the palm of his hands. A real showman. Freddie Trueman loved his cricket.

Replacing his cap, he rolled his sleeves up, a big twinkling smile on his face, in fact you could even say a lecherous smile, he winked at us then turned his back and walked towards the play as Brian Statham ran in to bowl the first ball of the next over.
It was a magic moment and one that is forever etched in my memory.

About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Nice memory Colin. I recall Derek Randall doing something similar in the Centenary Test. Lillee or Thompson had just tried to knock his head off with a withering bouncer. He fell over trying to avoid the ball, stood up, took off his cap, and gave a gracious bow. Lovely stuff.

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks for the comment Dips. Derek Randall attended a training session at my brother’s club in the late 70’s. I think he was playing district/club cricket that year and did these things as fundraisers for clubs. Anyway I went along for the bbq and talk afterwards. I was surprised how small Randall was but a very confident man with a cheeky, smirky smile that seemed to be permanently on his face. This seemed to irritate a lot of people from Lillee et al down to the club cricketer. Randall had a net and challenged the bowlers to get him out. I think there may have incentives of some sort as well, a can or two or even monetary. Bowling on a concrete pitch with matting over the top many of the bowlers thought they would bounce him. No way! He just smashed them back over their heads. The runups got longer and the balls were belted further. Most bowlers quickly tired of chasing their balls after awhile and the offered incentives were safe. I can’t remember what he spoke about but obviously cricket in general. Both jovial and genial he gained the respect of all in attendance by the end of the night.

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Was it Michael Parkinson who asked Fred in an interview ‘Is cricket a gentleman’s game?’ to which Fred responsed, ‘My definition of a gentleman is someone who gets out of the bath to go to the toilet’.

  4. Colin Ritchie says

    I think you’re right there.

  5. I was privileged to see Fred bowl in the flesh a few times when I was young. You capture him beautifully Colin. I remember what a rhythmic, bouncy run up he had. He was strong but not that tall. There was not the brute force of Lillee, Thomson and the West Indians in how he bowled. But there was something in how he gathered himself as he got to delivery point and how he flowed through the crease. Very side on so he could deliver a perfect outswinger. Thats how MC Cowdrey took all those slip catches. For all the talk of his bouncers and intimidation, I remember him more in the Lindwall mould (from Dad’s stories) as a classical fast swing bowler. More Hadlee than Lillee. Great stuff. Thanks Colin.

  6. Good accurate description Colin! I think I may have been there that day for my first experience of live test cricket in either 1962 or 1963. I have also great memories of Trueman’s radio commentary, especially his wit and humour.

  7. Peter Schumacher says

    I was at the Adelaide Oval one day when Fred was playing, 58/59 series I think , anyway it must have been Australia Day. There was the distant sound of 21 gun salute or something like that. He pulled a white handkerchief out of a pocket as if in a token of surrender. The crowd really warmed to him.

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