Sydney Barnes - Carlton & England

One of the greatest ever English Ashes heroes was a Carlton bowler, who took 106 Australian Test wickets at an average of just 21.58. Are we stretching the truth a little? Judge for yourself by reading the following article, which first appeared in the 2010 Carlton match programme.

So who is the finest bowler ever to play for Carlton? While there have been many candidates over the years, there is one cricketing giant who has a greater claim to this title than any others.

In 1922, club captain Dr N.L. Stevenson invited a very special cricketer to turn out for Carlton. He takes up the story in his book about the early years of the club, ‘Play!’…

"The big event of that season, which marked the Carlton Cricket Club’s Diamond Jubilee, was a specially arranged two-days match in which S.F. Barnes, the famous England bowler, appeared in the Carlton side.

Of Sidney [sic] Barnes a whole book could be written. The mention of his name will suffice for those whose cricket recollections ante-date the first world war. For the younger generation let me quote what Sir P.F. Warner once wrote:-

'The Australians have always maintained that Barnes is the greatest bowler we have ever sent them. It may certainly be maintained that he has never had a superior, and very few equals. He was the best bowler on all wickets that I have met, having every good quality – spin, break both ways, flight, and accuracy.' ”

If any young readers are not too sure of the cricketing pedigree of Barnes (left), it’s worth pointing out that he is rated the best ever test bowler in the Reliance Mobile Test Rankings.

Although aged 49 in 1922, Barnes would not play his final first-class match for another eight years. His statistics as a Carlton player certainly show no signs of age having diminished his powers. In the 2 day match against a Western Union XI, Carlton won by a crushing 272 runs, with the great man returning match figures of 12 for 45.

While it would be no surprise to learn that Dr Stevenson judged his 1922 appearance as a success, Barnes himself seemed to have enjoyed the experience as he wrote to Stevenson:

And he did play for Carlton again. Sydney returned to Grange Loan for two matches in 1923. In the first, against a touring team from Tynemouth, he helped Carlton to a 107 run victory, returning the rather impressive figures of 9 for 29 off his 17 overs. In his final appearance, he took the final wicket in a tight match against a Scottish Counties XI to give Carlton victory by just 16 runs. His figures were 8 for 57.

So, arguably the greatest test bowler of all time had a Carlton career bowling average of 4.5. Was he the greatest bowler ever to play for Carlton? Sydney Barnes makes a rather compelling case.

Sydney Barnes with Dr Stevenson at Grange Loan

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