Platinum anniversary of Fred Trueman’s memorable Test debut against India always worth celebrating - Chris Waters
As he took to the field, a 21-year-old tearaway who was as fast with his tongue as he was with the new ball, Trueman wandered up to the great Alec Bedser, who was playing his 39th Test and had carried England’s pace attack since the war, and said: “If you keep ‘em quiet at one end, I’ll get the b***ards out.”
And so the legend of ‘Fiery Fred’ was born.
Trueman made limited impact in that first innings, returning an encouraging if expensive 3-89 from 26 overs, but was true to his word in the second innings as he helped to reduce India to 0-4, still the worst start to a Test innings.
It happened like this…
From his second ball, Trueman had Pankaj Roy caught by Denis Compton at first slip after the batsman top-edged an attempted hook.
Bedser nipped in with the wicket of Datta Gaekwad, who was caught in the gully by Jim Laker from a delivery that rose sharply off a length.
Trueman sent Madhav Mantri’s middle stump cartwheeling and then struck Vijay Manjrekar’s leg stump as he attempted a cover drive.
In an eye blink, or, to be accurate, the space of 14 balls, India’s batting was in ruins and English cricket had found a new hero – plus a long-awaited answer to the Australian speed twins Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. As pandemomium reigned in the Headingley stands, Len Hutton, the England captain, pointed to the scoreboard.
“Take a good look at it,” he told his players. “You’ll never see another like it in a Test.”
After Trueman ran riot, and as an 11-year-old Geoffrey Boycott looked on from behind the bowler’s arm at the Kirkstall Lane end, the sports editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post telephoned his reporter at the ground in a state of some bemusement.
“Surely India are 4-0?” he enquired, “not 0-4?”
It summed up perfectly the prevailing mood.
Trueman’s wicket-taking spree was good news for Boycott and his friends who had travelled up from Fitzwilliam.
“When Fred got his first two wickets, this fella said to us, ‘If he gets another wicket this over, I’ll buy you all an ice-cream’,” remembered Boycott.
“Well, he bloody well did get another wicket, so we all had an ice-cream on Fred.”
Trueman finished with 4-27 from nine overs and England won by seven wickets, the start of a magnificent career that brought ‘Fiery Fred’ 307 Test wickets at 21.57.
“Aye, and it would have been 500 bloody Test wickets if I’d played in all the bloody Tests I should have played in,” he once reflected, referencing a bad boy image that often saw him unfairly tarnished in his younger days especially.
Coincidentally, Queen Elizabeth II, whose platinum jubilee is being celebrated with such gusto at present, had ascended to the throne on King Freddie’s 21st birthday earlier in 1952 (February 6) after the death of King George VI.
Trueman was then part of Hutton’s team which won the Ashes in Coronation Year (1953) as England recaptured the urn for the first time since the 1930s.
Trueman was an ardent royalist.
One of his proudest moments came at a British Achievers Luncheon in 2002, four years before his death, when the Queen caught sight of him in a crowded room.
In his memoirs, Trueman wrote: “As she crossed the room she glanced in my direction, paused for a moment, then came over to me and said, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen you in such a long time. How are you Mr Trueman?’
“We talked and I was left feeling so proud and pleased at the fact Her Majesty had recognised my face and singled me out for conversation.
“It is a moment I shall never forget and delighted me as much as the auspicious occasion itself.”
Trueman’s journey from tearaway young fast bowler to national treasure began 70 years ago tomorrow when a star was born at the Headingley Test.
Another platinum achievement well worth celebrating.