At a time when English cricket was in something of a slump, fresh from a trouncing in India and prior to a beating in the 1993 Ashes series, Robin Smith at least gave England’s supporters an afternoon to savour, writes Sarah Robinson.
Early in the summer of 1993, on the back of one win in five ODIs, and just four wins in their last 13 Tests, England were in dire need of inspiration. Defeated, again, in the opening match of the pre-Ashes three-match Texaco Trophy, the second ODI at Edgbaston was a must-win encounter.
Losing the toss, England were put in to bat in damp conditions that looked to favour Australia’s seam bowling trio of Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes and Paul Reiffel. When Alec Stewart fell to McDermott for a duck before many spectators had even taken their seats, eyes began to roll. In at three, Robin Smith could only stand and watch as Graham Gooch (17), and then Graeme Hick (2), fell to leave England wobbling on 55-3.
One dizzying hour later it was Australia who were on the ropes as Smith took control, first in the partnership with Neil Fairbrother (23) and then with Graham Thorpe (36), unfurling his full range of pulls, cuts and drives to haul his side out of trouble.
Smith was particularly brutal off the back foot and swiftly moved into three figures, as a vociferous Edgbaston crowd woke up to England’s unlikely revival. Five runs after reaching his ton, Smith notched his 2,000th ODI run, and by this time he was in full cry, taking just 20 deliveries to register his third fifty. From his last 30 balls, he plundered 76 runs, including a punched straight six off Reiffel from a perfectly-pitched yorker that could claim to being the shot of the decade.
The innings was a record-breaking one for Smith, with the biggest milestone of the day coming up when ‘Judge’ reached 159, replacing David Gower’s 158 against New Zealand as England’s highest ever limited-overs score.
By the end of the innings, he had become the fifth-highest scoring batsman in international cricket. Seventeen years later it is still England’s highest score in an ODI.
Depressingly, in a sign of what was to come throughout the summer, England’s bowlers were unable to shackle Australia’s batting lineup, and a blissful century from Mark Waugh and the inevitable half-century from Allan Border eased the tourists home comfortably, with nine balls to spare. But the result was almost secondary – if only for a day, Smith had lit up the summer.
First published in 2010