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Don Smith

Don has his day

Throwback Thursday

18-Jun-2015

In this era of big bats and small boundaries phenomenal feats of scoring are pretty commonplace.

England made 400 in a 50 overs international last week, a feat that was unthinkable a decade ago. Who knows? In ten years' time a score of 500 from 50 overs might seem like a throwback to a distant age.

Back in the 1950s scoring 400 runs in a day of County Championship cricket – one-day matches did not start until 1963 – was extremely rare, and a rate of more than three runs an over was considered good progress.

Sussex supporters had seen some wonderful batsmen in the post-war era although it would be fair to say Don Smith was not among the county’s all-time greats. In 1957 Don was 34 and in his 13th season with Sussex. He was also the senior professional and someone greatly admired by his team-mates. A few years earlier he had successfully turned himself into a left-arm medium-pace bowler having previously bowled spin and took 73 wickets in 1955.

Two years later Smith, restored to his best position as opener, went out to bat with Les Lenham after Sussex had been set 267 to beat Gloucestershire in three and a quarter hours at Hove in early May.

After 80 minutes they had scored 81 and the task appeared beyond them – but then Smith transformed the match with what Sussex historian John Marshall described as “an innings of electrifying brilliance.” In 58 balls after tea Smith scored 74 of the 82 runs added from 34 balls as he moved from 48 to 104 in just 19 minutes. When he was finally dismissed for 166, he’d struck 11 fours and nine sixes, most of them landing in the Hove pavilion and one hitting a spectator who needed hospital treatment. Sussex won the game by seven wickets.

Team-mate Jim Parks remembers Smith as “a model professional who was well liked by his colleagues and a player capable of winning a game with something a bit special.” That summer Smith’s form earned him three Test caps against West Indies and although he only managed 25 runs and 1 wicket it wasn’t his last taste of the highest level.

As a coach he looked after Sri Lanka during their formative years in international cricket. Now aged 92, he lives in quiet retirement in Australia, having emigrated several years ago, and is one of Sussex’s oldest living cricketers.

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