Billy Barnes

WILLIAM BARNES is by several years the eldest of the three great Nottingham players whose portraits we give this year. He was born on May 27, 1852, and appeared first in the Notts eleven in 1875. His rise was rather slow, and it was not until he had been several seasons before the public that he attained anything like his present high position. We well remember, however, hearing Richard Daft say at Prince's ground during the Notts and Middlesex match in 1876, that it rested entirely with Barnes himself to reach the top of the tree, and four years afterwards the veteran cricketer's opinion was fully borne out, for in 1880 Barnes headed the Notts batting with an average of 34, and was chosen to play in the never-to-be-forgotten match between England and Australia at the Oval. Since that time he has always been in the forefront of English cricket, no representative team being complete without him. So long as the fine weather lasted in 1889 he divided the batting honours with Gunn, but on wet wickets he did not maintain his form with anything like the consistency of his colleague, and so fell behind him in the averages. For several weeks he stood easily at the top of the first-class batting list. It has often been said that the style of batting at any particular period must be largely dependent on the character of the bowling in vogue, and Barnes certainly formed his method of play in those somewhat degenerate days in the latter half of the 70's when the majority of English professionals thought that the whole art of bowling consisted in pitching wide of the off stump for catches. Though he hits well all around the wicket, the strength of Barnes"s play lies unquestionably in the number and brilliancy of his strokes on the off side. Great batsman as he is, Barnes's position as a cricketer is by no means dependent on his batting alone. Though he had little occasion to use the ball last season he has for several years been one of the best bowlers in the country. Indeed, on a dry wicket which is a little broken, he has scarcely an equal, a fact of which the Gentlemen of England have on one or two occasions at Lord's had striking evidence. Barnes went to Australia with the Hon. Ivo Bligh's team in the season of 1882-3, but for some reason during that tour he did himself no justice. As a member of Shaw and Shrewsbury's teams in 1884-5 and 1885-6, however, he played in his finest form, and in the former of those trips he had the honour of beating Shrewsbury in the averages.

© John Wisden & Co