‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had during his caliphate delivered a sermon to the people, in which he stated that after the demise of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam the best was Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and thereafter ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The narration reads as follows:
عن قيس المخارق قال سمعت عليا (كرم الله وجهه)يقول علي هذا المنبر سبق رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم و ثني ابو بكر رضي الله عنه و ثلث عمر رضي الله عنه ثم خبطنا فتنة او اصابتنا فتنة فكان ماشاءالله.
Qais al Mukhariqi says, “I heard ‘Ali saying upon this mimbar, ‘Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had taken the lead in departing this world, after him came Abu Bakr as the second who was followed by ‘Umar as the third. Thereafter a trial engulfed us, thus that transpired what Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala wanted.’”
 Musnad Ahmed 1/147: uninterrupted narration of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu; Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d 6/86: mention of Qais; Gharib al Hadith of al Qasim ibn Sallam 3/458; al I’tiqad ‘ala Mazhab al Salaf p. 186-187; al Tarikh al Kabir of al Bukhari 4/173; Hilyat al Auliya’ 5/74; Izalat al Khafa’ 1/67.