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Opinion

The best Test XI of Smiths

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Roar Guru
10th June, 2020
91

Smith is one of the most common surnames in the English-speaking world.

With that in my mind, I have tried to form the strongest possible Test XI of Smiths.

My team has representatives from five countries and three centuries. The team includes – among others – a Hollywood actor, a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and a principal of primary schools in New Zealand.

My team is slightly imbalanced in the sense that the bowling attack is pretty weak. But some part-time bowlers would add both depth and variety.

Almost half of my team were fairly obvious selections, and I will start with one of them.

Graeme Smith (South Africa)
A solid rather than a spectacular opening bat, Smith scored more than 9000 runs for his country in Tests, averaging more than 48. He had five double hundreds, including back-to-back ones at Edgbaston and Lord’s in the English summer of 2003.

He led South Africa in 108 of the 117 Tests he played. His record of 53 wins against 28 defeats is quite impressive. More importantly, he bought a sense of discipline and self belief to the Proteas team after they had looked a bit shattered and confused in the aftermath of the match-fixing scandals.

Chris Smith (England)
Born in Durban, he qualified to play for England thanks to his English parents. He had a disastrous start in the Test arena. He was trapped LBW by Richard Hadlee for a golden duck in his first Test innings at Lord’s in 1983. He made some amends in the second innings, scoring a patient 43 and batting for more than 200 minutes.

In his short eight-Test career he averaged 30 with the bat with a highest score of 91 in Auckland in early 1984. He commanded greater respect from the county bowlers. His first-class average is almost 45.

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His younger brother Robin had a more successful international career with England.

Steve Smith (Australia)
Sydney-born Steve made his Test debut at Lord’s in 2010, but instead of facing the old enemy his debut was against Pakistan. Mainly picked as a leg spinner, he batted at eight and nine in the match, scoring one and 12 in the two innings. He impressed more as a bowler – his 3-51 in the second innings helped Australia win the Test.

He remained a useful rather than a key player for some time, but after scoring 138 not out at the Oval in 2013, he hasn’t looked back. In recent times his bat has become broader and broader, and simultaneously his time in the bowling crease has become rare.

After 73 Tests, his batting average is 62, and he is in the process of becoming the most successful Australian Test batsman since Sir Donald Bradman.

Interestingly, in my team, due to the weak bowling attack, he may be required to bowl quite a bit.

Steve Smith

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Robin Smith (England)
Born in South Africa, Robin first came in to prominence with his fine effort for Hampshire in a domestic one-day final against Devon Malcolm and Michael Holding at Lord’s in 1988. He was given his chance in the England team for the second half of the summer, and while he was not an instant success, he emerged as a rare bright light for England in the disastrous Ashes series of 1989.

He was a fine player of fast bowling and he was a big factor in England fighting on even terms with the Windies in the first half of the 1990s. His weakness against slow bowling was much publicised, but his record of more than 4000 runs in 62 Tests at an average of 43 is much better than many of the great favourites of the English selectors.

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Brun Smith (New Zealand)
An aggressive and slightly unorthodox right-hander, he was a strong square-of-the-wicket player, especially on the off side.

His highest score of 96 in his short career came at Headingley in 1949. His runs came in just 135 minutes, and he later added an unbeaten 54 in the second innings to take his average at the ground to 150.

His overall batting average in four Tests is 47.40.

He was the principal of a number of primary schools in his hometown of Christchurch.

Collie Smith (West Indies)
The Jamaican right-hander played 26 Tests before his accidental death in England in 1959. His Test average of 31 isn’t brilliant, but it was generally believed that his best years were ahead of him.

He was a rare success in the West Indies team on the tour of England in 1957. He scored 161 at Edgbaston and then added his career-best 168 at Trent Bridge.

He was a useful off-spinner. His only five-wicket haul, 5-90, came in Delhi in 1959. His offies would add more variety in the bowling in my team.

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Tuppy Owen-Smith (South Africa)
In his more than 100 matches as a first-class cricketer, he averaged 26 with the bat and took more than 300 wickets at an impressive average of 23 with his leg breaks.

His role in his short five-Test career, all on the England tour of 1929, was somewhat different. He averaged 42 with the bat thanks mainly to his 129 in his debut at Headingley. But he failed to take a wicket from his 26 expensive overs.

He was an all-rounder in the true sense. After settling in England in the 1930s he became the captain of the England rugby union team. He was a fine lightweight boxer. And after studying medicine at the Magdalen College, Oxford under the Rhodes scholarship, he returned to South Africa and served as a general practitioner of high reputation.

Ian Smith (New Zealand)
An unsung hero of the golden era of Kiwi cricket in the 1980s, Ian was a fine keeper and an aggressive batsman. He used the bottom hand well and had the ability to hit the ball extremely hard. Along with Sir Richard Hadlee, he gave the NZ batting much needed depth.

In Auckland in 1990, he played an extraordinary innings of 173 against India while batting at the number nine position. His runs came from 136 balls and his innings included 23 fours and three sixes. He came to the wicket with the Kiwis struggling on the opening day at 7-131. He was the last man out with his team on 391.

Charles Aubrey Smith (England)
In his only Test, against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 1889, Charles Smith led his side to an eight-wicket win. The three-day match was finished on the second day. Smith, a right-arm fast-medium bowler, took 5-19 and 2-42 in the match.

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He had a long and successful career as an actor, first on the stages of London’s West End theatres, and then in Hollywood after the Great War.

(Wiki Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith (Australia)
Often described by the cricket writers as a wayward talent, he was a left-arm wrist spinner who played ten Tests for Australia in the 1930s. He was unlucky to be playing at a time when both Bill O’Reilly and Clarrie Grimmett were at their peak. But his own lack of discipline, both in cricket and in his personal life, didn’t help his cause either.

On the 1934 Ashes tour, he failed to break into the Test team despite taking more than 100 wickets in the first-class fixtures. He did, however, play a big part in Australia’s comeback win in the 1936-37 season, producing his career-best match figures of 10-239 in the fourth match at the Adelaide Oval.

He took 42 wickets in his ten Tests with an average of 37. His figures of 1-298 in his final Test at the Oval in 1938 badly damaged his overall bowling statistics.

His first-class record shows almost 600 wickets at 22 apiece.

David Smith (England)
His Test record of six wickets from five Tests at an average of almost 60 and a strike rate of exactly 162 sounds very ordinary.

But all his Tests came on the lifeless tracks of the Indian subcontinent during the long tour of 1961-62, when both Fred Trueman and Brian Statham opted out of the tour.

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He had a successful career in county cricket with Gloucestershire. Bowling from a short run-up, he was deceptively quick, and he had the ability to both swing the ball and make it move off the wicket. His first-class record of 1250 wickets at an average of 23.72 suggests that he deserved a few chances in Test cricket in more seamer-friendly conditions.