Australia win, but Graeme Smith is the real hero

Benjamin Conkey Editor

By Benjamin Conkey, Benjamin Conkey is a Roar Editor

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    Injured South African captain Graeme Smith in action during the second innings on day five of their Third Test against Australia at the SCG in Sydney, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. Smith retired hurt from the first innings with a broken finger. AAP Image/Paul Miller

    Sometimes you just know a particular sporting moment will be remembered forever. The moment Graeme Smith walked out to bat at the SCG in January 2009 is one of them.

    46-years ago, Englishman Colin Cowdrey trudged out against the West Indies with a broken wrist. But he was at the non-strikers end and didn’t have to face any deliveries.

    This was different.

    No one but Smith will know the pain it took to defend 17 balls with his left hand broken and his right arm numb from injections.

    It says so much about his character that, having won the series, he still wanted to deny Australia any success. It also says so much about the sport of cricket, which is considered non-contact in theory but not in practice.

    In the end, a wicked in-swinging delivery by Mitchell Johnson ended the inspirational innings of three runs.

    As he walked out the Australian players must have been in awe.

    A KFC poll asked the question: “Would you bat if you were Graeme Smith?,” to which the majority said “Yes.”

    Of course they would go out and bat with a broken hand and a ball coming at over 140kph, with the very real possibility of being hit in the gloves again.

    I can’t even run when I have blisters because it’s too sore. But maybe I’ll stop complaining now that I’ve witnessed Graeme Smith’s efforts.

    It brought back memories of Steve Waugh in the 1997 Ashes series at Old Trafford where he scored two centuries in the match. In the second innings, he virtually batted with one hand because his right hand was badly bruised.

    Then there are those other amazing stories you read about in sport.

    I have the FIFA World Cup DVD box set that relives moments in World Cup history. One of them was the Czech goalkeeper Frantisek Planicka, who stayed on the field in 1938, despite breaking his arm!

    One can only imagine how painful it was for him to even catch an innocuous ball that day, let alone attempt a save.

    Now, there is another story to add to the list of tough, inspirational sporting moments.

    Many batsmen have broken fingers over the years, but few are willing to put the team ahead of their own personal well-being.

    Whatever Graeme Smith does for the rest of his career, the 7th January, 2009, will be remembered as the day he played one of the most unselfish innings ever seen.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • January 8th 2009 @ 9:58am
      Mr Mac said | January 8th 2009 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      Amazing how people have forgotten Rick McCosker all bandaged with a Broken Jaw win a test in Melbourne – was it the Centenary Test?

    • Columnist

      January 8th 2009 @ 11:19am
      Spiro Zavos said | January 8th 2009 @ 11:19am | ! Report

      And Colin Cowdrey at Lord’s 1963 against the West Indies when he came out to bat with England needing 6 runs to win in the final over after a run out. He had his arm in plaster but did not face a ball as David Allen blocked out the last two balls. Cowdrey could not have defended his wicket, it is presumed.
      And the closest precedent to Graeme Smith’s amazing performance of batting for nearly 30 minutes with his damaged arm and broken bone in the other hand was Lionel Tennyson in an Ashes Test at Headingley in 1921. According to Cricinfo, Tennyson (The Honourable Lionel ) split the webbing of his hand while fielding and with a make-shift basket guard covering the injury batted with one hand against the pace of Jack Gregory and Ted McDonald (the Miller and Lindwall of their day), scoring 63 and 36.

    • January 8th 2009 @ 2:34pm
      JimC said | January 8th 2009 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

      Alan Prescott – GB rugby league captain played 76 mins of the second test vs the Kangaroos in Brisbane in 1958 with a broken arm. There were no subs in those days. He tackled with his other arm. GB won by the way.

    • January 8th 2009 @ 4:51pm
      B Johnson said | January 8th 2009 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

      I am getting goosebumps just reading about all of this!

      What will stay with me forever is the positive spirit this series was played in.

      It was tough, uncompromising and always went the full 5 days. The Bowling of Mitchell, Siddle and Steyn, batting of Smith, Ponting, Duminy and Clarke, the tails wagging and committed fielding made it a great spectacle between the 2 best teams on earth.

      Well done to all!

    • January 8th 2009 @ 9:16pm
      brad said | January 8th 2009 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

      almost as tough as buck shleford

    • January 8th 2009 @ 9:30pm
      Nick said | January 8th 2009 @ 9:30pm | ! Report

      Brett Lee bowled with a broken foot in Melbourne. Where are the ‘Brett Lee is the bravest hero who ever lived’ articles?

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