Leslie (“Les”) Ethelbert George Ames, CBE (3 December 1905 – 27 February 1990) was an outstanding wicket-keeper and batsman for the England cricket team and Kent County Cricket Club. In his obituary, the Wisden of 1991 described him as the greatest wicket-keeper-batsman of all time.
Born in Elham, Kent, in 1905, he was mentored by F A MacKinnon, an ex-county player who lived in the village and then, after leaving Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone by G J V Weigall, the county coach, who encouraged him to learn to wicket keep so that he would have a better chance of playing for the county as an all-rounder.
He received the call to play for Kent while playing in West Malling and made his debut for Kent on 7 July 1926 against Warwickshire at the Nevill Ground in Royal Tunbridge Wells. He scored 35 and took 4 catches, even though J C Hubble was wicket keeper in that match. He played one more County Championship that season before becoming a regular in the 1927 season.
He went on the 1928-29 tour to Australia, but only played in several state matches before making his debut for England in the 5th Test against South Africa at The Oval on 17 August 1929, making a duck and taking 2 catches. His cap number for England is 244.
In Test cricket, Ames played 47 matches, scoring 2,434 runs with a batting average of 40.56, and taking 74 catches, and 23 stumpings. In first-class cricket, he scored 37,248 runs at an average of 43.51, including 102 centuries and 176 fifties, and took 704 catches and 417 stumpings. Unusually for a wicket-keeper, he also bowled over 200 overs, taking 24 first-class wickets with a bowling average of 33.37.
- the most dismissals in an English county cricket season (127 in 1929);
- the most stumpings in an English season (64 out of 104 dismissals in 1932);
- 1000 runs and 100 dismissals in each of three seasons (1928, 1929, 1932), a feat that has only been achieved once again in county cricket;
- the only wicket-keeper to score 100 first-class centuries;
- in 1935 he was the last Englishman to score 100 or more runs before lunch in a Test until Ian Bell did so seventy years later. Ames scored 123 runs in the session which is a record for most runs before lunch in Test cricket;
- centuries against every English first-class county, apart from his own county, Kent;
- the record 8th wicket partnership for England in Test cricket: 246 with Gubby Allen against New Zealand at Lord’s in 1931. This record was finally broken by Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad on 28 August 2010 in the Fourth Test against Pakistan when they set the new record of 332 runs.
- the first wicket-keeper to score a century at No.7 in Test Cricket
He was the wicket-keeper for the infamous Bodyline tour of Australia in 1932-3. His cricketing career was interrupted by the Second World War. Ames served with the Royal Air Force during, rising to the rank of Squadron Leader, and returned to play as a batsman for Kent after the war.
In the ICC Test Player Batting Rankings, he was:
- Highest Rating – 619 on 6 July 1934 (v Australia, Old Trafford, 3rd Test)
- Highest Ranking – 7th on 14 March 1935 (v West Indies, Kingston, 4th Test)
After his final playing season in 1951, Ames became a successful manager and administrator. He managed MCC tours to the West Indies in 1967-8 and Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 1968-9. He was also the first professional to be appointed as a selector in 1950, continuing until 1956 and serving again in 1958. He was the secretary and manager of Kent County Cricket Club, taking Kent to win the County Championship in 1970.