Alfred Freeman

FREEMAN, ALFRED PERCY, who died on January 28, aged 76, was one of the finest slow bowlers the game has known. He played as a professional for Kent from 1914 to 1936 taking 3,776 wickets at an average cost of 18.42 runs each and between 1924 and 1929 appeared in twelve Test matches for England. Only one man, W. Rhodes with 4,187 wickets, has met with greater success. Freeman's wonderfully well controlled leg-breaks, with a skilfully disguised googly or top-spinner interspersed, his well-nigh perfect length and cunning flighting frequently puzzled the most experienced opponents and on no fewer than 17 occasions he dismissed 100 or more batsmen in a season.

His most triumphant summer was that of 1928, when his victims totalled 304 for 18.15 runs each, a feat without parallel in first-class cricket, and five years later he took 298. His wickets exceeded 200 in five other seasons: 276 in 1931, 275 in 1930, 253 in 1932, 212 in 1935 and 205 in 1934. Three times--a feat unequalled by any other bowler--this short but stockily-built man, known in the cricket world as "Tich", took all 10 wickets in an innings, against Lancashire for 131 runs at Maidstone in 1929, and that despite an innings of 126 by F. Watson; against Essex for 53 runs at Southend in 1930 and against Lancashire again, this time at Old Trafford, for 79 runs in 1931. Additionally, at Hove in 1922, he disposed of' nine Sussex batsmen in the first innings for 11 runs, bringing about the dismissal of the side for 47, of which E. H. Bowley obtained 24. This was one of two matches in which Freeman was responsible for 17 wickets, his second innings analysis being eight for 56; the other was against Warwickshire at Folkestone ten years later. Three times he achieved the hat-trick, for Kent against Middlesex at Canterbury in 1920 and against Kent at Blackheath in 1934 and for M.C.C. against South Australia at Adelaide in 1922-23. . "Tich" seldom reached in Test cricket the phenomenal success he attained in the county sphere. He toured Australia and New Zealand with A. C MacLaren's M.C.C. team in 1922-23 and made his first appearance for England in Australia in 1924-25. Though he did reasonably well in other matches, he took only eight wickets in two Tests and conceded 519 runs. Nor did he achieve anything of note when visiting South Africa in 1927-28, his total wickets in four Tests amounting to 14 at an average cost of 28.50. In home Tests he fared better. Against the West Indies in 1928 he headed the averages with 22 wickets at 13.72 runs apiece, including 10 for 93 at Old Trafford. For Kent against the West Indies team at Canterbury he took nine wickets in the second innings for 104 runs. He also topped the England bowling figures against South Africa the following season, dismissing 12 men for 171 runs at Old Trafford and seven for 115 in the first innings at Leeds.

When Kent, who gave him two benefits, dispensed with his services at 1936, Freeman played for a time as professional for Walsall in the Birmingham and District League. In 1949 he became one of the 26 cricket personalities to be elected to honorary life membership of M.C.C.

Two celebrated leg-break bowlers paid these tributes: D. V. P. Wright (Kent and England): I always held him to be one of the finest leg-break bowlers I ever saw. The more I bowled the more I realisd how great "Tich" was.

R. W. V. Robins (Middlesex and England): Against other than the greatest of batsmen he was the most effective bowler I ever saw. We will never see his like again as a consistent wicket-taker. Under Percy Chapman, Freeman sometimes opened the bowling, which is astonishing in itself and almost unheard of for a leg-break bowler these days.

© John Wisden & Co