Graeme Smith: The scourge of England
In this special series on Graeme Smith, we have seen his top five Test knocks, and why he is branded as the best fourth-innings batsman. Now, we take a look at the team which he tormented the most during his long career as opening batsman and skipper – England.
While in their current form, England are more than likely of getting the better of their South African counterparts, there was a time when the Proteas were a side to reckon with, especially under the captaincy of Graeme Smith.
In the five Test series that Smith played against England, he won two, drew two and lost just one. And it was not only his captaincy that caught the eyes of the pundits but also the fact that Graeme Smith led his side from the front. In the 21 matches that Smith played against England, he scored 2051 runs at an average of 56.97. This includes seven half-centuries and seven centuries. This statistic is important because of the 27 Test centuries notched by the former Rajasthan Royals batsman, he has the joint-most number of tons against West Indies and England.
The Lord of Lord’s
In his first Test series away from home at England in 2003, Graeme Smith outdid himself after scoring a record-breaking 277 in the first Test at Edgbaston, which remained the highest individual Test innings scored by a South African until November 2010. He backed up this performance with a brilliant 259 at Lord’s, which still remains the highest score made at the legendary venue by a foreign player.
After England managed to salvage a draw against the Proteas, winning two and losing two Tests, skipper Nasser Hussain retired from England’s Test captaincy following the trump at Edgbaston.
The highlight of Graeme Smith’s Test career, however, has to be their tour of England in 2008. England could not contain the might of the Proteas. Over the next four Tests, Graeme Smith scored 369 runs at an average of 61.50, including two centuries.
Another Vaughan bites the dust
After sealing a possible series draw by winning the first two matches, Smith partnered with AB de Villiers and then Mark Boucher and set up two different stands, scoring an unbeaten 154 runs. He eventually led the team to a five-wicket stand. What was even more significant was that South Africa had won their first series in England after 43 years. Smith claimed his second victim as well when Michael Vaughan gave up England’s Test captaincy after the series loss.
Smith was not done retiring skippers though, when a third English skipper, Andrew Strauss, announced his retirement from England’s Test captaincy following yet another series loss at home against South Africa in 2011. Although Smith was not at his best form during the Test, he still managed to notch a century, eventually scoring 272 runs at an average of 54.40, while leading South Africa to another away victory.
While the list of records broken by Smith is endless, his contributions against a top side like England is often overlooked. He has the most runs in his career against England. The Proteas are now sadly just a shadow of their previous selves but Graeme Smith, currently the director of Cricket South Africa, will once again look to improve his beloved team’s performance, this time with his off-field decision making prowess.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Martin Hayhow
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