Kenneth Frank Barrington of Surrey and England was one of the most prolific Test match batsmen since the Second World War, until a heart attack in October 1968 ended his first-class career shortly before his 39th birthday. With a technique that had been perfected to eliminate risks, but which could never be described as being as graceful, he amassed a total of 31,714 first-class runs (including 76 centuries) between 1953 and 1968 at a healthy average of 45.63.

Having joined the Surrey the staff from Berkshire in 1948 at the age of 17, Ken was initially employed as a promising leg-spinner. However, by the time he had completed his National Service three years later it had become apparent that he was also a naturally gifted batsman. In 1953 he made his debut for Surrey and the following season was averaging 40.23 with the bat. Such was his progress that he twice played for England against South Africa in 1955, but his performances were disappointing and he was dropped.

In the seasons that followed Barrington strengthened his resolve to regain an England place. It was during this time that he turned himself into a back-foot player, strong on the leg-side, allowing himself only the cut to the off. Between 1956 and 1958 he struggled for form at a time when Surrey reigned supreme, averaging only 33.70 with the bat. But in 1959 he scored 2,499 first-class runs and appeared in all five Tests against India, earning a place on the winter tour to the West Indies.

Ken Barrington batting against Australia
From that point onwards Ken never looked back. With two centuries in the 1959-60 series his 121 in the Second Test at Port-of-Spain – against much short bowling from Hall and Watson – helped England win the match and, in turn, the rubber. Two years later in India he recorded three Test match hundreds, two of which were unbeaten, and averaged 99.00 in the series which England again won 2-0. One of the Indian bowlers is reported as saying at the time: “When you see Mr Barrington coming to the wicket the heart sinks. He is a jolly fellow and I like him very much, but I think I can see too much of him at the wicket.”

It was not until 1964, however, that he made his first Test century in England. When it came it was a career best 256 against Australia at Old Trafford – made in 11 hours 25 minutes – which he followed up with 207 for Surrey against Notts at the Oval in very next game.

After another successful tour, this time to South Africa, Barrington was dropped the following season for taking too long over his 137 against New Zealand at Birmingham. This was only a brief interlude, however, and as if to prove his critics wrong he brought up a century in 122 balls

at Melbourne in the final Test of the 1965-66 series. His last full and most prolific season at home in 1967 brought over 2,000 first-class runs at an average of 68.63, whilst in six Tests against India and Pakistan he averaged 93.75. Of three Test hundreds that year, the most memorable was his 142 against Pakistan at The Oval which enabled England to win inside four days.

When thrombosis at Melbourne in 1968 caused his premature retirement Wisden carried no fewer than eight pages of statistical records. In 82 Test matches he had scored 6,806 runs, including 20 centuries against every country and at every home Test centre at an average 58.67. For Surrey his 362 appearances had brought 19,197 runs (average 41.28), 43 hundreds, 100 fifties and ten thousand-run seasons.

At the time of his death in March 1981 Barrington was on tour with the England team – for whom he was coach – in the West Indies.