William Burns (cricketer)
|Bowling||Right arm fast|
William Beaumont Burns (29 August 1883 – 7 July 1916) was an English cricketer who played more than 200 first-class matches in the early 20th century, the great bulk of them for Worcestershire, for whom he filled in as captain on a number of occasions when the usual incumbents were not available. Burns' obituary in Wisden described him as a "dashing, hard-hitting batsman" but added that his bowling — which he scarcely pursued until the middle of his career — had to be considered suspect: "the fairness of his delivery was often questioned — and not without good reason".
Born in Rugeley, Staffordshire, Burns played for that county in the Minor Counties Championship while aged just 16, but his debut came in May 1903 when he represented Worcestershire against Oxford University at The Parks, making 3 and 35. He also played that season against Cambridge University and the Philadelphians, but could not appear in the County Championship because he had not yet qualified.
In 1904 Burns became a near-regular, appearing 19 times, and he finished with 834 runs at 26.00, including an innings of 165 in 180 minutes against Oxford University. The following season was not as impressive, but he returned to form with a vengeance in 1906, hitting 1,206 first-class runs at 43.07, with another innings of 165 against Oxford among his three centuries. That winter he visited New Zealand with Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC): he did relatively little with the bat, only twice passing 50 in 11 innings, but he did take his maiden wicket when he dismissed Wellington's Harold Monaghan.
Burns had a mediocre 1907 season, but in all the following four summers he passed 1,000 first-class runs, in 1908 hitting three centuries as he had done two years earlier. In 1909, in a rich vein of form which saw him score over 500 runs in five matches, he made his career-best score of 196 against Warwickshire. He and Ted Arnold shared a fifth-wicket stand of 393, which as of 2017 remains a Worcestershire record for this wicket. The innings-and-233-run victory margin remained Worcestershire's widest until 2002.
This period also saw Burns develop his bowling. In 1908 he sent down 633 deliveries, almost twice the number he had bowled in his first-class career up to that point, and claimed 16 wickets at 28.50 including a haul of 6-110 against Hampshire. In the following three seasons he bowled around 2,000 deliveries each summer, claiming a total of 145 first-class wickets, and recording career-best figures of 7-58 for the Gentlemen against the Players at The Oval in July 1910. This was the first of three appearances he made in such matches, but in the others he made little impression.
Burns suffered another dip in his form in 1912, scoring only 599 runs and taking only six wickets in his 22 matches, but he recovered his form, with the ball especially, the next season and ended with 42 first-class wickets at 30.81, as well as 866 runs at 27.06. He made his last hundred, 102 not out against Gloucestershire, in June, while he claimed six wickets in an innings twice: once against Hampshire in July, and once in his very last first-class game, Worcestershire's innings victory over Somerset in late August. He took one final wicket in the second innings of that game: that of Len Braund.
According to David Frith's book The Fast Men, Burns was an exceptionally quick bowler — Frank Chester, who played against him before the war, named him the fastest bowler, ahead even of Harold Larwood, that he ever saw — but he was handicapped by suspicions that he threw.
He then emigrated to Canada. In the First World War, he joined the Worcestershire Regiment of the British Army and served as a Second Lieutenant in France. He was killed in action at Contalmaison during the Battle of the Somme.
- Deaths in the war. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1917.
- "Worcestershire v Oxford University in 1904". CricketArchive. Retrieved 1 May 2007.
- "Highest Partnership for Each Wicket for Worcestershire". CricketArchive. Retrieved 1 May 2007.
- "Largest Margin of Innings Victory". CricketArchive. Retrieved 1 May 2007.