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Cricket bids final farewell to ~~Fiery~~ Trueman

Published: Thursday, July 6, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London:Cricket stars spanning the generations paid their last respects at the funeral of England fast bowling great Fred Trueman in his native Yorkshire.

Former England captains Ray Illingworth and Brian Close Thursday joined current Yorkshire players among the several hundred mourners at Bolton Abbey Priory Church, where Trueman was a regular worshipper.

Yorkshire coach David Byas and captain Craig White also attended the service at the 12th century church.

The first man to take 300 Test wickets, Trueman died Saturday at the age of 75. He was diagnosed with a form of lung cancer in May.

"He was a genius. And I use that word very, very sparingly," former Yorkshire colleague and Test umpire Dickie Bird told the congregation in his tribute.

"There have not been very many geniuses in sport -- Muhammad Ali in boxing, (Diego) Maradona, Pele and (George) Best in football, Michael Johnson the great American athlete, (Don) Bradman, (Garfield) Sobers, (Dennis) Lillie and Trueman. I put him up there.

"A genius -- and all these I have mentioned had a wonderful, wonderful gift. You cannot coach the gift, and that was balance. Trueman had wonderful balance. He bowled at pace, he swung the ball away late and by doing that he got all the great players in the world out."

An emotional Bird said he had lost a wonderful friend.

"You are cherished, my friend, you are cherished by us all," he added.

The Reverend John Ward, Rector of Bolton Abbey, said England had lost a "genuine sporting hero".

"But the loss to his country, his fans or his friends is as nothing compared to that of his family," he told mourners.

"We meet many of us as strangers yet bound by our affection and respect for what I can only describe as a cricketing colossus.

"A man capable of crossing all boundaries, be it four runs, six runs or social class."

Outside the church, Close paid tribute to "Fiery Fred".

"He was one of the greatest fast bowlers ever, as far as I was concerned. He was a great man," said the former Yorkshire captain, who was in the county's team when Trueman made his debut in 1949 and went on to lead him in Yorkshire's hugely successful era in the 1960s.

Byas added: "He epitomised everything that cricket was about. He was a true Yorkshireman. He was Yorkshire through-and-through."

A book of condolence has been opened at Yorkshire's Headingley cricket ground home in Leeds, which will eventually be presented to his widow.

Trueman, who reached the 300 Test wickets landmark against Australia at The Oval in 1964, had a final Test haul of 307 wickets -- a world record which stood until 1976, when it was broken by West Indies off-spinner Lance Gibbs.

Trueman retired from first-class cricket 20 years on from his debut, having taken more than 2,000 wickets.

Although the massive growth in the number of Test matches since Trueman retired means several bowlers have surpassed his record, few have equalled his average of 21.57 or his strike-rate of a wicket every 49 balls and he is still third in the list of England's leading Test wicket-takers behind Ian Botham and Bob Willis.

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