William Barnes

WILLIAM BARNES. One of the best cricketers of this generation, passed away on Friday, Match 24th, William Barnes , after lying seriously ill for three weeks, dying at his home at Mansfield Woodhouse. Born on May 27th, 1852, he was still a comparatively young man. His career in the Notts eleven was exceptionally brilliant, and extended over a long period of time. He first found a place in the team in 1875 , and did not play his last county match till 1894 . His powers were then obviously on the wane, and in seven matches he only scored 137 runs. What a great player he was at his best no one who takes any interest in cricket will need to be told. It may indeed be questioned whether Notts ever possessed a more valuable man, for over and above his splendid powers as a batsman he was for many seasons one of the best change bowlers in England. He did not all at once jump to the top of the tree, but his position as one of the leading batsmen of his day was firmly established in 1880 , and from that time till 1892 he kept his place in the front rank, appearing regularly for Players against Gentlemen at Lord"s and the Oval, and on many occasions representing England against Australia. He took part at the Oval in 1880 in the first England and Australia match ever played in this country, and he was a member of the unhappy team that two years later lost the memorable seven runs match on the same ground.

It was not until after 1882 that it became the custom for the Australians to play three matches against England, and during the tours of 1884 , 1886 , 1888 , and 1890 Barnes was nearly always one of our picked eleven. He proved an invaluable partner to Shrewsbury in the 1886 match at Lord"s, and contributed in a large degree to England"s single innings at the Oval in 1888 . He first went out to Australia with the Hon. Ivo Bligh"s eleven in the winter of 1882-83 , but did not during that trip play in any way up to his English reputation. However, in subsequent visits to the Colonies with two of Shaw and Shrewsbury"s teams he made ample amends for his previous failure, batting so finely that he once beat Shrewsbury in the eleven-a-side averages. To do that, as he himself expressed it, he had to play better than he had ever played before. Of his performances for Notts as a batsman a column could be written without by any means exhausting the subject. Not so patient as Shrewsbury or so finished in style as Gunn, he was yet on his good days in quite the same class as those famous players. His method having been mainly formed against bowlers of the modern school, he was especially strong on the off-side. No one could hit harder or better than he did between cover-point and mid-off. He was essentially a punishing player, and liked to keep things moving.

Once in the course of conversation at Lord"s he said that some careful batsmen-he was referring especially to Mr. A. P. Lucas-were content to play just the same strict game when they had made a hundred runs as when they first went to the wickets, but that he himself always wanted to do something more than that. It may be that by acting on this principle he sometimes cut his innings short, but the spectators at Lord"s, Trent Bridge, and elsewhere reaped the benefit in nearly always seeing a bright attractive display when he was in form. Though he played scores of bigger innings for Notts he rarely did anything finer, all things considered, than when he and Gunn practically won the Bank holiday match against Surrey at the Oval in 1892 . Lohmann and Lockwood were bowling their best on a far from perfect wicket and the cricket shown by Gunn and Barnes during a partnership of over an hour and a quarter will never be forgotten by anyone who was so fortunate as to be present. On both sides it was, indeed, a battle of giants.

© John Wisden & Co