Sydney Francis Barnes
), usually known simply as S. F. Barnes
, was, by the assertion of most of the players and critics of his era, both English and Australian, one of the finest bowlers
history. In 27 Test matches
, all of them against Australia
and South Africa
(the only other two countries with Test status), he took 189 wickets at an average of 16.43 runs each and is ranked first in the LG ICC Best Ever Test Bowling
Sydney Francis Barnes was born on April 19 1873
. He was the second son of five children whose father, Richard, spent nearly all of his life in Staffordshire, spending 63 years of it with the same company in Birmingham
. He did not play much cricket, which gives substance to his son's claim that he never received more than three hours of coaching.
County cricket career
Barnes briefly played county cricket
for Warwickshire and, in 1902 and 1903, Lancashire
, although he met with only moderate success. There were, however, several successful performances, but after a contractual dispute near the end of 1903, he took no further part in County cricket, playing instead for Staffordshire
in the Minor County Championship and the Lancashire League. His record for Staffordshire
was 1,441 wickets at a cost of 8.15 runs per wicket, while his average in the Lancashire League was even lower. He preferred the safe and decent wage-paying Minor Leagues to the lesser paid, unsure County Championship.
After taking eight wickets for the Players in the 1914 Gentlemen v Players, Barnes had to wait thirteen more years before he could play first-class cricket again: this eventually happened in the first of nine appearances for Wales between 1927 and 1930. He took 49 first-class wickets for Wales, including seven for 51 and five for 67 in an eight-wicket triumph over the West Indians in 1928, when he was 55 years of age. Barnes also made two first-class appearances for the Minor Counties in 1929, recording the innings analysis of 32-11-41-8 in a drawn game against the South Africans at Stoke-on-Trent.
Barnes's final first-class game was against MCC at Lord's in 1930, when he was 57 years old; he took two for 57. He played minor county and league cricket well into his sixties and died at the age of 94 on Boxing Day, 1967 in Chadsmoor, Staffordshire.
Barnes is the only cricketer to be selected to play for England
while playing league (rather than county) cricket. Barnes' style of bowling is virtually unknown today: he bowled mainly medium pace leg-cutters but varied his delivery speed considerably and was sometimes quicker. He used his strong hands and wrists to deliver both leg- and off-cutters, although he did not achieve the same success over the latter. Barnes got a great deal of movement both through the air and off the pitch at any pace. Of the aerial movement, some contemporary accounts describe him as having swung
the ball, but the movement in question was probably more a result of side-spin and would today be termed "drift" instead.
In 1910, Barnes was made a Wisden Cricketer of the Year. The following year, he went on a tour of Australia with Johnny Douglas's M.C.C. team. In the second Test at Melbourne, he bowled what some believe to be the greatest-ever spell in a Test Match, despite suffering a fever that kept him off the field during the twenty minutes before lunch. In the first Test at Sydney (which England lost), captain Johnny Douglas shared the new ball with left-arm seamer Frank Foster. Barnes, disgusted at being made a change bowler, sulked and gave a performance that was well below par. In the next Test, however, Douglas bowed to the pressure and surrendered the new ball to the Staffordshire bowler, who responded with a spell of five wickets for six runs, demolishing the Australian top order in 10.1 overs. "I told you so," he said to Douglas after one of his breakthroughs. His five scalps were Warren Bardsley, Charles Kelleway, Clem Hill, Warwick Armstrong and Roy Minnet, leaving the home side floundering on 38 for six.
Barnes's 49 wickets against South Africa in the 1913-14 away series is still the record for any bowler in a Test series, although he played in only four of the five Tests. In the Test at Johannesburg, the second of the series, Barnes became the first man to take more than 15 wickets in a Test, claiming eight for 56 and nine for 103, resulting in match figures of seventeen for 159 . Only Jim Laker's nineteen for ninety in 1956 has since surpassed this feat.
wrote of his bowling: "At appreciably more
than medium pace he could, even in the finest weather and on the truest wickets in Australia, both swing and break the ball from off or leg. Most deadly of all was the ball which he would deliver from rather wide on the crease, move in with a late swerve the width of the wicket, and then straighten back off the ground to hit the off stump.
Bernard Hollowood quoted his father, Albert Hollowood, who had been Barnes' Staffordshire captain before World War One, as saying: "Oh, yes, he could bowl 'em all, but he got his wickets
with fast leg-breaks. Marvellous, absolutely marvellous, he was. Fast leg-breaks and always on a length.
Barnes took 189 Test wickets, his average of 16.43 and strike rate
of 41.65 are the second lowest (after the 10.75 and 34.11 of George Lohmann
) for any bowler who has taken 75 Test wickets or more. Barnes also appeared for Wales
in 1929. By this time well into his fifties, he took 49 first-class wickets for Wales
, including 7-51 in that 1928 win over the Caribbean tourists.
As S.C. Griffith, the former M.C.C. secretary, wrote in a tribute to Barnes in the Wisden
for 1968, "The extraordinary thing about him was that all his contemporaries considered him the greatest bowler. There was never any doubts in their minds. This must have been unique." Richie Benaud
selected him in his all time cricket XI