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Extract from England's 50 Greatest Cricketers by Paul Rance


3. Sydney Barnes
Warwickshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire

In terms of figures, right-armer Sydney Barnes is the strongest contender for being England's greatest bowler of all-time. The figures are stunning: 27 Tests, 189 wickets, ave 16.43. In addition, he took 5 wickets in an innings 24 times, and 10 wickets in a match 7 times.

With a good action, and long fingers that aided his ability to mix up swing and spin, on the uncovered wickets at the beginning of the 20th Century, Barnes would have been almost unplayable at times. His potential was also spotted early, and he was chosen to tour Australia in 1901-02 with only 13 first-class wickets taken in his career. Barnes soon made an impact, until injury prevented him from completing the series. A decade later, and Sydney Barnes put in a Stuart Broad-type spell at Melbourne with 5-6 after 11 overs.

Barnes played for Warwickshire, Lancashire, and Staffordshire. He was so effective playing for the minor county Staffordshire that he remains the only player to ever be consistently capped by England while playing minor county cricket. He inspired Staffs to the Minor County Championship several times, and he played 22 seasons with them, until retiring aged 61! With 1,432 wickets for Staffs, and his wickets in the first-class and League game, Barnes may have taken more wickets than anyone else at such a high level. But for his preference to play League and minor county cricket, Sydney Barnes may have shattered first-class records that would still not have been broken. As it is, his 49 wickets in the 1913-14 series in South Africa is still a record for the most wickets ever taken in a Test series - and Barnes achieved his feat in only 4 Test matches. Barnes also took 5 wickets in an innings 7 times in that series, and his match figures of 17-159 at Johannesburg have only been bettered in Test cricket by England's Jim Laker's 19-90 at Manchester against Australia in 1956. Barnes' 9-103 in the same Johannesburg Test was also his best performance in one innings for England.

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