Smith seemed unfazed in face of adversity, which probably makes him one of the greatest fourth innings Test batsmen to have played the game.
Along with being one of the best captains of the game, one must be appreciative of the brilliant batsman that Graeme Smith was. Taking up the mantle of captaincy at the young age of 22 can be a daunting task, but the South African pulled it off with aplomb. Dutifully shouldering the burden of leading his side through the years, Smith seemed unfazed in face of adversity, which probably makes him one of the greatest fourth-innings Test batsmen to have ever played the game.
Having played 117 Tests for South Africa and captained in a record 108, Graeme Smith scored a mammoth 9,265 runs at an average of 48.25. A testament of his commitment for his team, not only as a batsman but also as a frontrunner and a leader, were the statistics that his career turn up, especially when he played in the fourth innings of a game.
During his 12-year career, Smith managed to score a total of 1611 runs in the fourth innings, at an average of 52. The only other batsman to score more runs in the fourth innings was Sachin Tendulkar, but the Master Blaster has played 19 more innings than the former Proteas skipper. Hence, the average of the Indian batting legend in the fourth innings was also considerably lesser than Smith.
|Top five highest fourth innings scores (courtesy: ESPNCricinfo)|
|Batsman||No. of innings played||Fourth innings score||Average|
At the same time, he is also one of five batsmen who managed to score four fourth-innings centuries, the others being Sunil Gavaskar, Ricky Ponting, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Younis Khan. A more interesting statistic in this regard is that all four of those centuries came in winning causes while scoring 1000-odd runs on the way. Graeme Smith is the only batsman to have achieved this feat.
|Graeme Smith's top five fourth-innings scores|
The aforementioned scores attest to the prowess that Graeme Smith possessed when it came to a fourth-innings performance. As an opener, he stayed unbeaten through three of these performances. Moreover, the Proteas won every one of the matches on this list, with the skipper winning the Man of the Match award only twice. Meanwhile, three of his four Test tons in the fourth innings came away from home, at Wellington, Edgbaston and Perth.
However, there is one particular fourth innings performance of Graeme Smith that takes the cake. It came in a 103-run loss to Australia in their third Test after wrapping up the series 2-0 -- their first series win in Australia in 16 years. Playing during the Sydney Test whilst touring Australia in 2009, after having scored just 30 runs during the first innings, Graeme Smith was forced to retire with a broken left hand while facing Mitchell Johnson.
With his team facing an imminent loss on the last day of the Test, Smith came out at No. 11 to partner up with pacer Makhaya Ntini with the hopes of at least salvaging a draw. Playing with a borrowed kit, Smith rallied on till the very end. For the next 27 balls, Ntini and Smith played on the defence, and with Smith’s injury finally giving way, Mitchell Johnson managed to scalp his wicket with 10 balls to spare.
Such was the temperament and perseverance of one of the best Test batsmen and skipper that world cricket had ever seen.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Luigi Bennett
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