09-03-2009, 01:39 AM
Hall of Fame Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Mumbai India
Frank Woolley in his book, 'King of The Game' writes thumbnail sketches of players he has seen. Woolley played his first Test match in 1909 and his last in 1930. He played first class cricket right upto 1938, so he had seen almost all the great players of almost two generations and played as an England colleague of Barnes watching from the best possible place to see a master bowler at work - the slips. He covers players from Trumper to Bradman. At the very end of the thumbnails he writes of SF Barnes. Here is what he writes.
S F BARNES
On the principal of the finest plums being kept to the last, the reader finds the greatest bowler of them all at the end of my little thumbnail gallery.
Syd Barnes must be tired of hearing and reading of himself being described as the greatest of all bowlers. To be sure that is a tall order. But I expect he has got over the monotony! From the time he was discovered by Mr AC Maclaren, who took him, a quite unknown bowler to Australia in 1901-02 on the last tour that was run before the management of our International cricket devolved on the Board of Control. Barnes never looked back. As showing the strength of Australian cricket at that time, England won only one Test, Australia four, although Barnes had 19 wickets for 17.00 each.....
The correct pitching of the fast leg break by Barnes was perhaps the factor that first attracted Mr MacLaren.
But that one was far from being the only shot in Syd's well-filled locker. He had a beautiful enduring action, one of the most graceful I saw in a bowler so hostile and so capable. His almost natural leg spin caused the ball to swerve in towards the batsman; that itself inducing "playing inside," which to any good length ball pitching on middle and leg is fatal when that ball is as likely as not to straighten, if not turn towards the off, on pitching.
Add to this deadly characteristic the attacking temprament of the bowler, who, as I saw frequently from the slips, hid his intentions from the batsman, and the devastation which Barnes could, and did, spread in the ranks of thoroughly accomplished batsmen stands explained.
Barnes had more perfect control of the ball than any other bowler of my time.
Bowling both leg and off breaks, both in and out swerves, maintaining length and pitching a yorker almost at will, Barnes was a modest estimate of four or five bowlers in one.
If a slip fielder stays awake he can tell better than anyone on the field how and why the batsman was out. From my vantage point I have never noticed in the case of any other bowler, so many batsmen so utterly lost as were many who were bowled, as Clem Hill used to say, "base over turkey" by Barnes.
With my doughty partner in several tight corners for Kent, Arthur Fielder, Barnes helped to win the second Test of the 1907-08 tour, under Mr AO Jones, at Melbourne, by one wicket, Barnes 38 and Fielder 18 not out; but Syd goes down to posterity as the greatest of all bowlers.
It is said that the third pays for all. Barnes visited Australia three times. On each of the first two visits Australia won 4-1, but on his third visit England won 4, Australia 1.
His Test bowling figures in Australia and the total result of 15 Tests on his three tours there are, in my opinion, a monument to the strength of Australian batting in 1901-12*. His figures were :-
YEAR OVERS MAIDENS RUNS WKTS AVG
1901-02 138.2 23 323 19 17
1907-08 273.2 74 626 24 26.08
1911-12 297 64 778 34 22.88
OVERALL 708.4 171 1727 77 21.98
*Note : When mentioning Barnes's remarkable figures against Australia, Woolley does not praise Barnes but the Australian batting for not letting Barnes have far more striking figures as he would have had against most oppositions.
English cricket, now in sore straits for the lack of Barnes class bowling, would revive like magic if a bowler of anything like his ability was to arrive on the scene*. We can only hope for the best .....
Note * :- Written in 1936.