Eddie Barlow

'Powerhouse' cricketer


Edgar John Barlow, cricketer: born Pretoria, South Africa 12 August 1940; three times married (one son, one daughter); died St Helier, Jersey 30 December 2005.

If you have been driven into the last ditch, with 4,000 spearmen charging, then the cricketer Eddie Barlow is the kind of man you need alongside. He had all the strengths for which South Africans are famous: application, tenacity, resilience, resource, courage and an invincible optimism. Barlow also possessed a virtue not granted to all of his countrymen: a sense of humour.

In the days when even Derbyshire had a coterie of national newspapermen to follow their summer campaigns Barlow, then captain, would greet us hacks on a bright morning: "Now then, you devious bastards, what are you going to stuff me with today?" He read what you wrote, too, and if some young man you had previously castigated for poor footwork and flirtations outside his off stump suddenly smoothed a century he would be after you: "So he can't play, eh? He'll bat for me, you'll see."

For three years in the mid-1970s Barlow stole the media's attention away from the giant counties and gave the Peakites a spell in the limelight that is still fondly remembered in Buxton and Ilkeston. He joined the county halfway through the 1976 season, for what was then an astonishing five-figure salary, and hit 217 against Surrey at the latter venue. In his spell of leadership he took Derbyshire to a Lord's final, made them the fittest team in county cricket and saw three of his players chosen by England.

He was Clive Woodward, Duncan Fletcher and Alex Ferguson in one burly, thickset figure, supposedly so short-sighted that it was said at his Pretoria school that he could see no further than the front wheel of his bicycle. His school nickname, because of his build and his spectacles, was "Bunter". When he first played in Test cricket the SABC commentator Charles Fortune described him as looking like an "unmade bed".

He first appeared for Transvaal in 1959 as a right-hand batsman of obdurate defence and prodigious hitting power, an accurate right-arm fast-medium bowler with deceptive changes of pace. He was a brilliant catcher at slip and a good enough rugby player to represent Transvaal against the All Blacks. He was described in Barclays' World of Cricket (1966) as a " South African powerhouse".

Barlow averaged 63 in South Africa's tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1963-64, including an innings of 201 against Australia in Adelaide (in addition to scoring 47 not out and taking 3-6) and was a first choice for his country through that decade. He and his colleagues in that splendid South African team were denied further Test cricket by the expulsion of his country following the Basil D'Oliveira incident, and it was no surprise when the hugely energetic and frustrated Barlow became one of the first players to join Kerry Packer when the Australian founded World Series Cricket in 1977.

In 1970 he had played for the Rest of the World against England, in one spell at Headingley taking four wickets in five balls, including the hat-trick. His former Test captain Trevor Goddard praised him: "Eddie was innovative. He taught us so much and was so very good in influencing and motivating young players."

Barlow played league cricket in England before he transformed Derbyshire, and then went home to perform a similar feat as captain of Boland. On retirement he became Director of South Africa's Sports Office in London, where he did a superb job as an ambassador for his country. At times he owned a vineyard, was a pig farmer, and, returning to cricket, was senior coach to Gloucestershire in 1990-91. Barlow had also played for Eastern and Western Provinces and stood, unsuccessfully, as a candidate for the Progressive Party.

In 1999 he took up what proved to be his last post as coach to the emerging Bangladesh team and it is a measure of his standing in the game that he is so affectionately remembered there after being in charge for only a year. In 2000 he suffered a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair until a further stroke proved fatal last week.

Eddie Barlow averaged 45 in his 30 Test matches, including six centuries, and took 40 wickets (34.05) and 35 catches. In a first-class career Barlow scored 18,212 runs including 43 centuries, took 571 wickets (24.14) and 335 catches. All Bangladeshi cricketers playing on Monday wore a black ribbon in his memory.

Derek Hodgson

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