Chris Waters: Saluting anniversary of Fiery Fred’s 300th Test wicket scalp

FIFTY years ago today, on the corresponding Saturday in August, Fred Trueman became the first man to take 300 Test wickets.

Fred Trueman in action

The Yorkshire fast bowler had Australia’s Neil Hawke caught in the slips by Colin Cowdrey in one of the sport’s most iconic moments.

At the time, Trueman’s achievement was ground-breaking – the cricketing equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.

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No-one had come anywhere near the 300-mark; Richie Benaud, the Australian all-rounder who had played his last Test in the February of that year, 1964, was next on the list with 248 followed by Brian Statham, Trueman’s England partner, who had 245 and would go on to finish with 252.

Fast forward 50 years and the feat – if not commonplace – is hardly infrequent.

Since Trueman broke cricket’s answer to the four-minute mile, a further 26 men have taken 300 Test wickets.

Of those, six have gone on beyond 400, two beyond 500, one beyond 600, one beyond 700 and one (Muttiah Muralitharan) to a world record 800 wickets.

Considering that Trueman famously joked that if anyone beat his record they would be “bloody tired”, we can safely assume that Muralitharan was cream-crackered by the time he retired from Tests in 2010.

Closer inspection of the 300-plus list, however, reveals what a truly great bowler Trueman was in relation to those who have followed in his footsteps.

When he played the last of his 67 Tests the following year, 1965, he had advanced to a final tally of 307 wickets at an average of 21.57.

Of those who have also taken 300 wickets, just two – Malcolm Marshall (20.94) and Curtly Ambrose (20.99) – had a better average.

Of more contemporary greats, Glenn McGrath averaged 21.64, Muralitharan 22.72 and Shane Warne 25.41, figures that further put Trueman’s talent into context.

In addition, Trueman’s strike-rate of a wicket every 49 balls is bettered by just Dale Steyn (41), Waqar Younis (43), Marshall (46) and Allan Donald (47) of those in the hallowed 300 club.

Trueman took an average of 4.58 wickets per match and would have played many more Tests but for his bad-boy reputation.

He was left out of numerous fixtures – particularly at the start of his career – as he was perceived as something of a wild child by the cricketing establishment in the class-conscious days of the 1950s.

That he was the first to 300 was, therefore, even more remarkable.

With so much international cricket nowadays, more and more will reach 300 and beyond.

Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Broad have recently passed 250, and others are coming up fast on the rails.

Many may have gone past him in the intervening half-century, but no-one could take Trueman’s record away from him.

It is an achievement that stands the test of time, an achievement bound to bring a lump of nostalgia to the throat of The Yorkshire Post readers for whom the great Fiery Fred was a true sporting hero.