Norton Fredrick, the former Sri Lankan first-class cricketer, died on Wednesday at the age of 73, following a terminal illness, at his home in Wattala, ten kilometres from Colombo. Fredrick played for the All Ceylon team before Sri Lanka had Test status, and also for Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club in Sri Lanka. Although stocky for a fast bowler, he had all the ingredients that make a good quick - a short temper and speed.
Fredrick's four-year career with Ceylon was short but he made a big impact, and earned the nickname Fiery Fred, which he shared with Fred Trueman. Although not an orthodox quick, he generated a great deal of pace; his most potent delivery was the inswinger bowled with a high-arm action with which he beat batsmen regularly and bowled them through the gate, often hitting the bails.
His most memorable match was an unofficial Test for All Ceylon against India, played in Ahmedabad in 1965, in which he ripped through the Indian top order in both innings to set up a historic four-wicket win for his country. It was the first time All Ceylon had won in India and Sri Lanka have never won a Test in India since becoming a Test-playing nation.
Fredrick took seven wickets in the match in Ahmedabad - 4 for 85 in the first innings and 3 for 24 in the second - and his victims were Dilip Sardesai (twice), India captain the Nawab of Pataudi (twice), Farokh Engineer, Abbas Ali Baig and Hanumant Singh, who according to Frederick was the best batsman in India at the time. India were bowled out for totals of 189 and 66.
For a fast bowler, Fredrick suffered remarkably few injuries through his career. "I never suffered from cramps until I got one holding on to a return catch given by Indian batsman Chandu Borde. Only then did I know what a cramp was," Fredrick once said. He maintained his physique by doing wind sprints after practice for about an hour and parallel bar exercises.
Strangely enough Fredrick never played cricket for his school St Joseph's College, Colombo in the ten years he was a student there because he bowled with a round-arm action. "I bowled so fast that I used to injure children at Under-13 and Under-14 level with a tennis ball. But when I went for first XI practices the coach said that I had a square-arm action and dropped me from the team," he once recalled.
It was when Fredrick joined the Prisons Department as a welfare officer that his cricket career really started to take shape. He joined Bloomfield in 1959, took five wickets in his first match for them and never looked back. He played eight years of Sara Trophy Division One cricket for Bloomfield, helping them win the title in 1963-64 by taking 57 wickets. In his entire career for Bloomfield he captured 183 wickets, at an average of 16.58.
In the four years he represented Ceylon (1964-1968) Fredrick played against Australia, the MCC, India and Pakistan, opening the bowling with Darrell Lieversz and with Ian Pieris; he played under the leadership of CI Gunasekera and Michael Tissera. Due to family commitments he was forced to end his career in 1968. He was a Sri Lanka Cricket-appointed match referee in later years and had a road named after him called Norton Place in his neighbourhood in recognition of the social service he and his wife did for the community. He had two sons, one of whom was an army officer who died during the civil war in Sri Lanka.