Today Bob Borsley returns for another innings in the normblog cricket memories series:
My wife was pregnant in 1989 and it was predicted that our offspring would arrive on the first day of the fourth Test. Given my wife's tendency to be late for things, it was reasonable to assume that nothing would happen until the fourth or fifth day at the earliest. Surprisingly, however, our son arrived in the afternoon of the day before the Test match, and so I was able to concentrate on the Test when it began.
In one way, 1989 was a good year to be born since it saw the end of Communism in Eastern Europe (including my wife's country, Poland). But for a potential English cricket supporter it was not so good since it was the beginning of The Australian Supremacy. (There should be some scary music at this point. [Happy to oblige - Ed.]) Robin Smith's innings was the highlight of the first day, but England were all out for 260. Australia replied with 447, England managed only 264 in their second innings (with 128 from Jack Russell), and Australia won by 9 wickets. Smith's pugnacious batting was an important feature of the England team for the next few years, but eventually a weakness against spin led to his being sidelined with a final average of 43.67. A good career but not as good as one might have expected.
As for our son, the environment he grew up in was such that he knew the names of many cricketers at an early age. (But he didn't always know who was English and who was Australian or who was still alive and who was long dead: 'Is CB Fry still alive?', 'Is David Gower dead?') Eventually he became a serious cricket fan, and during the recent Ashes series he seemed to be up most of the night. When he was at home during the fourth and fifth Tests, he was already up when I got up at 6.00 to catch the last hour or so of the play, and it was good to get the news from him (to which I would respond with words like 'No!?...', 'Really?!?...', 'Amazing!!!'). But it's a bit too soon for memories of 2010–11!
I watched that whole Test at Old Trafford. I wasn't sorry to see the end of Robin Smith. From my bookshelves:
Smith, with noble help from Foster in the later stages, scored his first hundred for England, and apart from one fiendishly difficult chance offered to gully, he rarely appeared to be in trouble in almost six hours at the crease... It was a fine innings by any standards; amidst the fragility of many more experienced players it was outstanding. - Wisden 1990
England got to 260 but only through the courage of Smith who made 143 and was last man out, aiming to hit Merv Hughes over backward point for six. It was a brilliant knock. - Allan Border, Ashes Glory
[T]hey [Foster and Fraser] kept Smith company long enough for him to hit another three boundaries, including one thunderous off-drive, before he upper-cut a bouncer from Hughes and was well caught by Hohns at third man. For the future of English cricket, his six hours at the crease had been time well spent. - Mike Selvey, The Ashes Surrendered
[H]is dedicated batting saved the England innings from becoming a complete disaster. - Philip Derriman, Ashes from Ashes
England's innings ended at noon... when Smith was the last man out, attempting to blast as many runs as possible before the inevitable end... [H]e slashed a cut off Hughes to Hohns at third man where the veteran snared a fine tumbling catch... Smith's innings of 143 was a silk purse among sow's ears. - Rod Nicholson, Border's Heroes
[For links to the other posts in this series, see here.]