|Full name||Sydney Francis Barnes|
19 April 1873|
Smethwick, Staffordshire, England
|Died||26 December 1967
Chadsmoor, Cannock, Staffordshire, England
|Bowling style||Right arm fast-medium and leg spin|
|Test debut (cap 129)||13 December 1901 v Australia|
|Last Test||18 February 1914 v South Africa|
|Domestic team information|
|Source: CricketArchive, 12 June 2011|
Sydney Francis Barnes (19 April 1873 – 26 December 1967) was an English professional cricketer who is generally regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the sport's history. He was right-handed and bowled at a pace that varied from medium to fast-medium with the ability to make the ball both swing and break from off or leg.
Barnes was unusual in that, despite a very long playing career, he spent little more than two seasons in first-class cricket, preferring instead to play league cricket and represent his native county club Staffordshire in the Minor Counties Cricket Championship. He took 1,432 wickets for Staffordshire at less than 9 runs each and played for the county until he was 61. In Test cricket, Barnes played for England on 27 occasions from 1901 to 1914, taking 189 wickets at an average of 16.43 runs each. He is ranked first in the ICC Best-Ever Test Championship Rating for bowlers. In 1911–12, Barnes enabled England to win The Ashes when he took 34 wickets in the series against Australia. In 1913–14, playing his final Test series, he took a world record 49 wickets against South Africa.
Early and private life
Barnes was born on 19 April 1873 at Smethwick, Staffordshire. He was the second son of five children whose father, Richard, lived nearly all of his life in Staffordshire, working for 63 years at the Muntz Metal Company which was based at Selly Oak in Birmingham. His father did not play much cricket and Barnes was the only one of three brothers who ever "touched a bat or ball".
He married Alice Maud Taylor (née Pearce) in 1903. He was his wife's second husband, after she divorced her first huband George Taylor. Barnes and his wife had one child, a son.
The beginning of Barnes' career dates to 1888 when he was fifteen and he began playing for a small club which had a ground behind the Galton Hotel in Smethwick. Soon afterwards, Barnes joined the town club, Smethwick Cricket Club, and began playing for its third team. He was taught to bowl off spin by Billy Ward, the Smethwick professional, and then taught himself to bowl leg spin. In due course, he was selected for the second team and had earned a place in the first team, playing in the Birmingham and District Premier League, at the start of the 1893 season.
In 1894, when Barnes was a 21-year-old fast bowler, he was asked to join the ground staff of Staffordshire County Cricket Club but he found the terms unattractive. Instead, he joined Rishton Cricket Club in the Lancashire League where the pay was better than in any form of county cricket, largely because of match bonuses and collections. Wilfrid S. White commented that Barnes' career in league cricket "stands out unparalleled, unapproached, by any other player".
Later in the 1894 season, Barnes was invited to play for Warwickshire, who were due to enter the County Championship in 1895. His debut was in a minor match against Cheshire at Edgbaston on 20–21 August. The match was drawn and Barnes bowled only 8 overs, taking 0–27. On 23 August, Barnes made his first-class debut for Warwickshire against Gloucestershire at Clifton College Close Ground, except that he did not take the field as play was restricted by bad weather to just 72 overs of his team's first innings, in which they reached 102–2.
Barnes played for Warwickshire once in August 1894, twice in May 1895 and once in June 1896. That was the extent of his career with Warwickshire as he chose to play mostly for Rishton from 1895 to 1899. He took only 3 wickets for Warwickshire, having bowled 86 overs and conceded 226 runs. He took 411 wickets in the five years playing in the Sunday leagues for Rishton.
Barnes' association with Lancashire began in 1899 when he played for the club's Second XI against Staffordshire in a match at the County Ground, Stoke-on-Trent on 10 and 11 July. He took 10 wickets in the match including a match-winning analysis of 8–38 in the second innings. In August, Barnes made his first-team debut for Lancashire and played in two County Championship matches against Sussex and Surrey but he had only moderate success with a best return of 3–99 against Surrey. He rejected an offer to join the Lancashire ground staff, preferring to continue with better-paid league cricket, which he could combine with full-time employment as a clerk in a Staffordshire colliery.
In 1900, Barnes left Rishton and joined Burnley Cricket Club. He did not represent Lancashire that season but reappeared in 1901 when he made two Second XI appearances against Yorkshire's Second XI and one County Championship match, the last match of the season in late August against Leicestershire at Old Trafford. This was a rain-interrupted draw but Barnes scored 32 runs and then took 6–70 in the Leicestershire first innings, reducing them to an all-out 140 in response to Lancashire's total of 328–8 declared.
Lancashire's captain was Archie MacLaren who was about to form an England team to tour Australia and, despite Barnes' limited first-class career to this point, he was included in the squad. This came about because Lord Hawke refused to allow George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes to travel but MacLaren had become, to quote White, "the first to see in Barnes a bowler of international calibre". Barnes' selection was a major surprise and considered to be "the most daring experiment in the history of the game". However Barnes proved a difficult man for his captain to handle and, when the ship on which the touring party was travelling seemed in danger of sinking, MacLaren said: "Well, there's one comfort. If we go down that bastard Barnes goes down with us."
Following a successful tour, Barnes became a first team regular at Lancashire through the 1902 and 1903 seasons, producing several successful performances, although he was still troubled by a knee injury sustained while on tour. But, after a dispute about winter employment in 1903, during which season he was "much over-bowled", he quit Lancashire and took no further part in first-class county cricket. He returned to the Lancashire League, playing also for Staffordshire in the Minor Counties Championship.
Barnes played in 22 first-class matches in 1902, taking 95 wickets at an average of 21.56 with a best analysis of 6–39 and one match in which he took 10 wickets. He is listed well down the national averages and his overall performance bears moderate comparison with that of, for example, Wilfred Rhodes who took 213 wickets at 13.15 with 5 ten-wicket matches. In 1903, Barnes made 24 appearances and took 131 wickets at 17.85. He was ninth of those bowlers who took 100 wickets; his best analysis was 8–37 and he had 3 ten-wicket matches. His total of 131 in 1903 was the only time Barnes took 100 wickets in an English first-class season, although he did capture 104 wickets in South Africa in 1913–14.
Barnes did not play first-class cricket again for over four years until he joined an occasional team playing against the South African tourists in September 1907. He toured Australia the following winter and the bulk of his Test career was played from then till 1914. Barnes made several appearances for the Players in the prestigious Gentlemen v Players series during this period, culminating in the July 1914 match.
Barnes was not selected by either England or the Players after the First World War and did not play first-class cricket again until 1927 when he was 54 years old. From then until 1930, he made 9 appearances for Wales.
Barnes took 49 wickets for Wales in 1928, including 7–51 and 5–67 in an 8-wicket win over the touring West Indians. He also made two first-class appearances for the Minor Counties in 1929 and took 8–41 in a drawn game against the South Africans at Stoke-on-Trent. Barnes' final first-class appearance was for Wales against the MCC at Lord's in 1930.
Barnes was selected for his first overseas tour in 1901–02 despite having made only seven first-class appearances in the previous eight English seasons. In Australia, he played against three state teams before making his Test debut against Australia on 13 December 1901 at Sydney Cricket Ground, where he took 5 wickets for 65 runs in the first innings. Also making their debuts in this Test were Colin Blythe and Len Braund. Between them, the three debutant bowlers took all 20 Australian wickets as England won by an innings and 124 runs. Australia levelled the series in the second Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground, winning by 229 runs although Barnes had figures of 6–42 and 7–121. Monty Noble trumped Barnes' effort with 7–17 and 6–60. Although successful, taking 19 wickets in the two Tests to add to the 13 in his previous seven first-class matches, Barnes was over-bowled: he injured a knee in the third Test at Adelaide Oval and missed the remainder of the tour. Although he later said he was still far short of his best at the time, he had established himself as a world-class bowler.
Barnes was selected only once in England's home series against Australia in 1902. This was for the third Test, the only Test ever held at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, which Australia won by 143 runs, Barnes took 6–49 and 1–50, but Noble with 11 wickets was again Australia's matchwinner.
Barnes returned to Test cricket when England toured Australia in 1907–08. This time, he played in all five Tests and took 24 wickets at 26.08 with best figures of 7–60. In the second Test, which England won by 1 wicket, it was Barnes' batting that was crucial as he shared stands of 34 for the ninth wicket with Joe Humphries and an unbeaten 39 for the last with Arthur Fielder. When the tourists played Western Australia, Barnes shared a stand with George Gunn of over 200 for the fifth wicket while scoring 93, his personal best in first-class cricket.
In the 1909 season, Barnes played in the last three of England's five Tests against Australia. In the third Test at Headingley, he took 6–63 in Australia's 2nd innings but England lost by 126 runs. The fourth Test at Old Trafford was drawn, Barnes taking 5–56 in the 1st innings. In the final Test at The Oval, Barnes took two wickets in each innings of another drawn match.
Barnes joined the MCC tour of Australia in 1911–12 and played in all five Tests. 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.  At Melbourne, however, Douglas bowed to the pressure and surrendered the new ball to the Staffordshire bowler, who responded with a spell of four wickets for one run in his first five overs. "I told you so," he said to Douglas after one of his breakthroughs. His first four scalps were Warren Bardsley, Charles Kelleway, Clem Hill and Warwick Armstrong, and when Frank Foster dismissed Victor Trumper and Barnes added Roy Minnett, the home side were floundering on 38 for six.
In the 1912 Triangular Tournament, Barnes played in all six of England's Tests, three each against Australia and South Africa.  In the three matches against South Africa, he took 34 wickets for 282 runs. 
In 1913–14, Barnes toured South Africa with MCC and played in the first four Tests of a five match series. He missed the last Test because of a financial disagreement. Barnes's 49 wickets on the matting pitches used in this series remains the world record for wickets taken in a Test series. In the second Test at the Old Wanderers ground in Johannesburg, he became the first bowler to take more than 15 wickets in a Test with figures of 8–56 and 9–103 resulting in a match analysis of 17–159. Only Jim Laker's match analysis of 19–90 in 1956 has since surpassed this feat.
He declined the opportunity to join the tour to Australia in 1920–21, when he was 47 years old. He had wanted to bring his family with him, but it became clear that he would have to pay their traveling expenses. 
Barnes took 189 Test wickets. His average of 16.43 and strike rate of 41.65 are the lowest amongst bowlers who have played in more than 25 Tests and taken more than 150 wickets. His closest challenger is Alan Davidson, who took 186 wickets at 20.53. His figures are the second lowest (after the 10.75 and 34.11 respectively of George Lohmann) among bowlers who have taken 75 Test wickets or more.
Minor Counties and League cricket
Barnes made 172 appearances for Staffordshire in the Minor Counties Championship from 1904 to 1935. His career with Staffordshire was in two parts: 1904 to 1914; and 1924 to 1935. He was over 41 when the First World War broke out and so too old for military service. From 1915 to 1923, Barnes played exclusively for Saltaire in the Bradford League.
In league cricket, Barnes played in the Lancashire League with the Rishton, Burnley and Church clubs from 1895 to 1914 and for Rawtenstall from 1931 to 1933. He was with Porthill in the North Staffordshire League from 1906 to 1914. From 1924 to 1930, he played for Castleton Moor and Rochdale in the Central Lancashire League. In addition to his spell with Saltaire in the Bradford League, he played for Keighley in 1934, which was his final season in league cricket.
His record for Staffordshire was 1,441 wickets at a cost of 8.15 runs per wicket.
He played as the professional for Saltaire from 1915 until 1923, taking 803 wickets at an average of just over 5. He took a hundred wickets in a season three times, a feat that has only been achieved on two other occasions in the Bradford League's history. He returned to the league for Keighley in 1934 when he was 61.
Barnes played minor county and league cricket well into his sixties and died aged 94 on 26 December 1967 at Chadsmoor, Staffordshire.
Style and personality
Barnes was described as more than six feet tall and maintaining an erect posture with wide shoulders, a deep chest, long arms and strong legs – in John Arlott's view, "perfectly built to be a bowler". He bowled right arm fast-medium but also had what Arlott called "the accuracy, spin and resource of a slow bowler". Barnes' high delivery provided him with a lift off the pitch that forced even the best batsmen to play him at an awkward height. He was clever at concealing his pace and could produce deliveries that were both appreciably faster and slower than his usual fast-medium pace; and could bowl an effective yorker. Barnes considered himself essentially a spin bowler as he bowled both the off-break and the leg-break. Although technically formidable, Barnes allied his skillset to a hostile persona and great stamina which, Arlott says, "were reflected in constant, unrelenting probing for a batsman's weakness and then attacking it by surprise, each ball fitting into a tactical pattern". In Barnes's era, the same ball would be used for the whole of a team's innings, with no new ball, although bowlers were assisted by the unpredictability of uncovered pitches.
Harry Altham 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 played alongside Barnes for Staffordshire in the 1930s and quoted his father, Albert Hollowood, who had been Barnes' Staffordshire captain before the First World War, 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".
Bernard Hollowood drew two cartoons of Barnes, which appear in his book Cricket on the Brain. One depicts him leaping in the air as he appeals for a dismissal and with his index finger raised as though he himself is adjudicating on the appeal. It is entitled 'A.N. Other lbw Barnes.... 0'. John Arlott wrote in his review of the book for the 1971 Wisden: ...his two caricatures of S.F. Barnes would seem transcendent if they were not outweighed by his chapter on that great bowler which is a fine passage of cricket literature... this is a book of many and well-cut facets.
Writing in the May 1963 edition of The Cricketer, John Arlott published a tribute to Barnes which commemorated his 90th birthday. Arlott wrote that of those who played with or against Barnes, "(they) had no doubt that he stood alone – the greatest bowler that ever lived".
In the 1963 edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, Barnes was selected by Neville Cardus as one the Six Giants of the Wisden Century. This was a special commemorative selection requested by Wisden for its 100th edition. The other five players chosen were:
As S.C. Griffith, the former MCC 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."
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|Oldest Living Test Cricketer
12 July 1964 – 26 December 1967
|World Record – Most Career Wickets in Test cricket
189 wickets (16.83) in 27 Tests
Held record 13 December 1913 to 4 January 1936