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Young Player of the Year 2006

Matthew Freeman


Matthew Freeman: Debut: 2003. Sunday Captain 2011

It’s not easy to know where to start really, is it? I mean the laws of libel are there for a reason and it wouldn’t be easy to convince any jury that anyone could possibly be as accident and incident-prone as Freeman has demonstrated since making his debut for the club in 2003.

Many years ago cricket in the north of England revolved around a simple premise. When in need of a fast bowler teams simply whistled down the pit and the latest run of the mill miner would step off the production line and emerge blinking into the sunlight to be instantly transformed into a lethal pace ace equipped with searing speed to spearhead the attack.

There aren’t many pits near Offley so when the club found themselves in need of a new quick bowler in 2003 they simply headed for the nearest infirmary and wheeled out Matthew Freeman, a raw bowler with some promise who was destined for a collision with a pallet truck and other amazing adventures.

Freeman arrived at the club in a cloud of dust kicked up by the stabilizers on his moped. Since that day he has developed into a crucial part of the team, always willing to trot out an excuse at the first sign of trouble and determined to never ever take responsibility for anything.

On the pitch Freeman has shown the ability to bowl with genuine pace and bounce and deservedly earned the club’s Young Player of the Year award in 2006 when he claimed 35 wickets. Unfortunately he was unable to celebrate the award in style as he was knocked unconscious by a stray microphone midway through the evening as he attempted to sing a soft rock ballad.

Despite once suffering from serious no ball problems and an inability to run up to the crease six times an over without aborting his run at least once, Freeman has curbed his difficulties in 2007 on account of having skipper Steve Bexfield mark out his run up for him. The pair have a father-son relationship and it’s not difficult to see Bexfield beaming with paternal pride at mid on when the son he never had takes a wicket or negotiates an over without serious mishap.

Although Freeman has the ability to bowl fast and generate problems for batsmen with his pace and bounce, he is a cerebral bowler and sometimes like to employ cunning plans such as serving up legside half volleys and bowling for a catch at square leg. Strangely Bexfield does not let him employ this tactic on a regular basis. He is not afraid of giving the batsman the glare (providing the batsman is no more than 13 years of age and unlikely to be able to resort to physical violence) and also has a nice line in pouting and shaking his head in disgust when he is called for a wide.

Freeman’s batting is worth watching. He has an impressive technique that he allies to a complete lack of courage and moral fibre to produce a forward defensive shot born out of blind terror. However, he has genuine ability with the bat but chooses not to make the most of it against good bowlers, preferring to cower down the order and chance his arm against spinners and trundlers. He has spurned the chance to bat higher in the order which may be just as well because he’d probably get a nose bleed if he went in higher than six.

Despite that he thinks enough of his ability with the willow to deny charges of being the new Chris Austin on the grounds that, “I prefer to think of myself as someone who can hit boundaries.”

So there.

Despite his exploits with bat and ball – his five wicket hauls against Houghton Town and Broxbourne and his 57-ball 15 against Abbots Langley – Freeman has made his mark on the field where his mantra of “I only turn up to bowl” really comes to the fore. No other player has ever prompted a teammate to launch the ball at them in disgust and no other player has displayed quite the same capacity for disaster in the field.

In his time Freeman has stuck his foot down a pothole prompting him to recreate the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan as he writhed around in agony, been forced to leave the field in search of a tissue, some sugar and urgent water supplies after bowling a single over at Shenley Village. How we laughed as the ball fizzed through the gap he had just vacated en-route to the boundary.

Hay fever has made life a misery for himself and the other 10 fielders while Freeman’s myriad toilet breaks have rarely been popular. In 2007 he had a minor tantrum when the drinks emerged from the pavilion and Freeman was offered nothing but Ribena, a beverage that he disdains. Freeman duly took an extended drinks break much to the annoyance of his captain.

When he is not succumbing to various mishaps Freeman can actually be a decent fielder when he concentrates long enough. He has decent hands and tends to catches what he gets to even if he lacks the wheels to cover a significant amount of ground. He has a curious technique of throwing the ball, with one leg being lifted in the air as he releases the ball from the deep as if he was a puppet being controlled by a puppeteer. Either that or he’s spectacularly uncoordinated.

He was the star of the 2005 tour to Minehead where he negotiated the entire week without scoring a run or taking a wicket although club folklore does record that he mustered 0 not out on one trip to the crease. These days he has swapped McCoy’s for Chomp Bars although Flakes are also popular and the crumbliest flakiest fielder in the world is certainly a fitting spokesman fro the crumbliest flakiest chocolate in the world.

All things considered – despite the crisp packets abandoned in the changing room, the chocolate binges, the “I didn’t do it philosophy,” the leg stump long hops and the slightly questionable attitude to fielding – Freeman has established himself as an integral part of the club, an inspiration for the sick, crippled and lame everywhere.

Matthew Freeman, the Modern Day Gladiator, we salute you!