Ben Gardner picks out a varied XI with one thing in common, their surname, ‘Smith’.
What’s in a name? If you’re called Smith, perhaps not much. It’s one of the most common surnames going, with 546,960 of them in Great Britain alone according to some 2016 research by the University of West of England.
In total, there have been 33 men’s Test cricketers with ‘Smith’ forming part of their surnames, and they’ve fulfilled enough different roles to make up the following Test XI. With plenty of hard-hitters – ‘Smith is derived from ‘smite’, after all – this team would be very easy to watch, but potentially quite confusing to keep score to.
And no, there’s no room for England’s sunglasses-wearer-in-chief Ed Smith, though we can make him honorary selector of this team if it will keep him happy.
Wisden’s Smith XI
Graeme Smith (c) – South Africa
One of cricket’s greatest captains, Graeme Smith naturally leads this team. He made 27 Test hundreds and took South Africa to No.1 in the world, as well as overseeing a nine-year stretch without an away Test series defeat, so his became a famous name among cricket fans. It wasn’t always thus though, with England captain Nasser Hussain calling him ‘Whatsisname’ before a 2003 series. After 621 runs in three innings, England had changed skippers.
Dwayne Smith – West Indies
Dwayne Smith is more well-known for his T20 exploits, having played a whopping 337 games in the shortest format, compared to just 10 in Tests. It didn’t get better than a spectacular debut, when Smith smashed a 93-ball hundred to help West Indies save a game against South Africa. Though that knock came from No.6, we’ve pushed him up to open to attack the new ball, as he does in white-ball cricket.
Steve Smith – Australia
Arguably the best batsman since Don Bradman, and surely the greatest cricketer named Smith, Steve is a shoo-in for this side. He doesn’t get the armband though, we’ve given that to South Africa’s Graeme.
Robin Smith – England
A supreme player of fast bowling, ‘The Judge’ played a succession of brave, thrilling innings against the great West Indies side in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Robin Smith averaged 43.67 from 62 Tests, with nine hundreds, and fully deserves his spot at No.4 here.
MJK Smith – England
Another captaincy candidate in this team, Michael John Knight Smith led England in exactly half of his 50 Tests, earning praise for putting himself at the least appealing fielding positions, those normally reserved for the most junior player in the side. In six successive county campaigns between 1957-62 he made 2,000 runs in a season, and ended up with a tick under 40,000 first-class runs at an average of 41.84, with 69 hundreds.
Collie Smith – West Indies
Collie Smith was a hugely promising all-rounder, and was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1958 after cracking two hundreds on West Indies’ tour of England the previous year. Those included a superb 168, made when following on, and having come in when West Indies were four down and still 191 runs in arrears. With his off-spin, he narrowly missed bowling West Indies to victory in India in 1959, claiming 8-184 in the match, including his maiden Test five-for.
Tragically he would play just three more times for West Indies before passing away as the result of a car accident that summer at the age of 26, shortly after smashing a triple century in Lancashire League cricket. Garry Sobers, who was driving the car, was found guilty of careless driving and issued with a fine.
Ian Smith (wk) – New Zealand
Before he was one of cricket’s best-loved commentators, Ian ‘We’re going to a super over’ Smith was a wicketkeeper of some repute, taking the gloves for New Zealand in 63 Tests, and captaining them in one. The undoubted highlight came against India in 1990. Smith walked in with his side in some trouble, floundering at 131-7 in the first innings. He proceeded to smash an incredible 136-ball 173, which still stands as the highest Test score by a No.9.
Jim Smith – England
Tall, quick, accurate and capable of bowling long spells, Jim Smith played three Tests, claiming one five-for, and took 845 wickets in 208 first-class games at 19.25, with a staggering 47 five-fors. However, we’ve mostly picked him for his hard-hitting batting, with Smith setting records that, considering modern over-rates, may never be beaten. Against Gloucestershire in 1938, he smashed 50 in just 11 minutes, which is about how long a particularly involved microwave ready meal takes to cook. That’s some biffing.
Chuck Fleetwood-Smith – Australia
OK, so Chuck’s a Fleetwood-Smith rather than a pure Smith, but then he was always a bit different. A left-arm wrist-spinner – that rarest of beasts – Fleetwood-Smith would undoubtedly have played more for Australia had his career not coincided with those of Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O’Reilly, two of Australia’s greatest leg-spinners. He looked to be just establishing himself when the Second World War came along, taking 7-107 in an Ashes-sealing victory.
His final Test appearance was memorable for the wrong reasons; Len Hutton plundered Australia for 364 in a total of 903-7, with Fleetwood-Smith’s analysis of 1-298 still the most expensive spell bowled in Test cricket.
He was a Sheffield Shield giant, twice taking nine wickets in an innings for Victoria, and ended with 597 first-class wickets at 22.64, with 57 five-fors.
Aubrey Smith – England
Since this is an XI comprised entirely of one very common name, we thought it needed a sprinkling of stardust. Enter Sir Aubrey Smith, who captained England in his only Test in 1889, claimed 346 wickets in 143 games for England, Cambridge University, Sussex and Transvaal, and was far better known for his acting work, becoming a Hollywood star during the Roaring ‘20s.
Mike Smith – England
Our second Mike Smith, and one who never claimed a Test wicket. He deserved to though, with Matthew Elliott shelled by Graham Thorpe during the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley in 1997. With the series level at 1-1, it was a pivotal moment. Elliott would go on to make a match-winning 199, and Smith never played for England again. He did take plenty of wickets for Gloucestershire however, and was one of the finest county swing bowlers of his era.
So there you have it. The real question is, how would this team do against Wisden’s Khan XI?