Graeme Craig Smith (born 1 February 1981 in Johannesburg) is a South African cricketer, and the current captain of the South African cricket team, having succeeded Shaun Pollock after the 2003 Cricket World Cup.
A tall and attacking left-handed opening batsman, on the 2003 South African tour of England he made double centuries in consecutive Test matches: 277 at Edgbaston, and 259 at Lord’s. The 277 is the highest individual innings ever made for South Africa, and the 259 is the highest score ever made at Lord’s by a foreign player.
Known for the success of his opening partnership with Herschelle Gibbs, South Africa’s most prolific ever opening partnership, Smith has the distinction of having been part of all four of South Africa’s opening partnerships of over 300 runs: in three of them he was partnered by Gibbs, and in 2008 Smith added 415 for the first wicket with Neil McKenzie against Bangladesh, a world record opening partnership.
Born and raised in Johannesburg, Smith was educated at King Edward VII School.
Smith played three Under-19s tests and seven one day internationals for South Africa Under-19s, of which five were during the Under 19 Cricket World Cup. He scored one fifty in the test matches, but scored five half centuries in the one dayers. Smith was also awarded the South African Cricketer of the Year award for his performances in the 2001–02 South Africian cricket season.
Graeme Smith has played for a number of cricket teams in South Africa. He currently plays for Western Province cricket team but due to his international commitments, his appearances for them have been limited, his last game for them being on October 28, 2004. In total he has played 17 games for Western Province scoring 1,312 runs with four centuries at an average of 46.85. He has also played for other teams in South Africa including United Cricket Board of South Africa Invitation XI and Western Province Boland.
He has also played county cricket for Somerset in the 2005 English cricket season, captaining the club for part of the 2005 season, and he scored a century in a tour match against the Australians in preparation for the 2005 Ashes series. Against Leicestershire at Taunton he scored his maiden first-class triple hundred (311 off 255 balls). He also hit 105 in the Twenty20 Cup match against Northamptonshire, which is currently the 11th highest score in the domestic Twenty20 Cup competition. Smith also captained the team to victory on finals day to secure the Twenty20 Cup trophy, making 64 not out from 47 balls in the final.
In 2008 Graeme Smith played in the inaugural Indian Premier League for Rajasthan Royals. His opening partnership with Swapnil Asnodkar achieved significant success.
Smith made his Test debut for South Africa in 2002 in Cape Town against Australia, batting at number three and scoring 68 in the second innings. Promoted to open the batting with Herschelle Gibbs against Bangladesh in his third Test match, Smith scored 200. In the following home series against Pakistan, Smith (who scored 151) and Gibbs (228) shared a first-wicket stand of 368, a national record until bettered by Smith and Neil MacKenzie’s 415, and at the time the fourth highest opening partnership in Test history. Following the 2003 Cricket World Cup and Shaun Pollock’s subsequent resignation, Smith was selected as captain for South Africa’s next Test. The decision was criticised as it was felt that he had shown ‘few leadership credentials’: he had played only eight Test matches and 22 ODIs before being given the captaincy. Graeme Smith was only 22 years and 82 days old when he captained his first match against Bangladesh, the youngest ever South African captain.
During the tour of England in 2003 he made double centuries in consecutive test matches: 277 (and 85 from 70 balls in the second innings) in the first Test at Edgbaston, and 259 in an innings victory in the second Test at Lord’s. His 277 was the highest individual Test innings scored by a South African, surpassing the previous record of 275 held jointly by Darryl Cullinan and Gary Kirsten; his 259 at Lord’s is the highest score at the ground by a foreign player, breaking the record of 254 by Sir Donald Bradman. These performances prompted Alec Stewart to call him “the most impressive 22-year-old I have seen in cricket”. This outstanding run of form could have continued but for an unusual dismissal: in the third Test at Trent Bridge Smith, on 35, played back to Andrew Flintoff and trod on his stumps to be dismissed hit wicket. Smith did not pass 20 again in the series as a galvanised England won the match and fought back to draw the series 2–2, but Smith nonetheless finished the series with an aggregate of 714 runs at an average of 79.33, and was named player of the series (jointly with Flintoff).
During the year 2004 South Africa had a significantly less successful run in ODI cricket than they would have expected, with a 5–1 series loss to New Zealand and a 5–0 series loss to Sri Lanka. They had beaten the West Indies 3–1 earlier in the year, but South African cricket was described as being in a state of ‘freefall’. In Test matches also South Africa suffered a poor run with series losses to England, India and Sri Lanka. They did nevertheless win a home Test series against the West Indies (with Smith and Gibbs sharing their third 300-run opening partnership).
Although initially regarded as an inexperienced captain, his growth in the role was evidenced when he was selected to captain the ICC World XI in the ICC Super Series Test Match between the ICC World XI and Australia in October 2005.
South Africa won a Test series in the West Indies in 2005, with Smith scoring centuries in three consecutive Tests: 148 at the Queen’s Park Oval, 104 at the Kensington Oval and 126 at Antigua. However, their tour of Australia, and Australia’s subsequent return tour in the 2005–06 season were disappointments for Smith, as they succumbed to a 2–0 defeat in Australia, and a 3–0 whitewash at home. Pride was restored when Smith led his team to victory in South Africa’s win over Australia in a One Day International at the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, on March 12, 2006. Australia set South Africa a world record 434–4 from 50 overs, which was successfully chased by South Africa who reached 438–9 with a ball to spare. Smith scored 90 runs off 55 balls in the chase, and shared in a second wicket partnership of 187 runs with Herschelle Gibbs. The result gave South Africa in a 3–2 series victory over the Australians.
In the first ODI against Pakistan on February 4, 2007, Smith hit an over bowled by Naved-ul-Hasan for 27 runs, and became the first player in ODI history to hit six fours off an over; Smith scored 72 from 47 balls as South Africa totalled 392–6, the highest ODI total ever made against a Test nation (excluding Zimbabwe) apart from the two innings of the aforementioned Wanderers match between Australia and South Africa. As captain he led the South African cricket team through 20 consecutive undefeated matches in One Day Internationals in 2005. In early 2007 Smith’s South Africans replaced Australia on top of the official ICC rankings for ODI cricket but returned to second place after mixed results in the 2007 ICC World Cup thus far after losing to Australia by eight wickets. In the 2007 World Cup he started the tournament with four successive 50s, a feat never before achieved by a captain.
During the second Test against Bangladesh at Chittagong in begun on February 29, 2008 Smith (who scored 232) and Neil McKenzie (226) put on a world record 415 for the first wicket. The partnership beat the previous first-wicket record of 413 which had been set in 1956 by Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy. They had finished day one with 405 runs on the board which was the most ever put on by a pair in a single day of Test cricket without losing a wicket. The partnership was Smith’s fourth opening partnership of over 300 runs, and his sixth of over 200 runs, both Test records.
Smith was once accused by West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo of racial abuse, but was cleared of those allegations. He has however, been punished several times by the International Cricket Council for various infringements, mostly for dissent and slow over rates.
He has had a difficult relationship with South African-born English batsman Kevin Pietersen. Graeme Smith once said “I’m patriotic about my country, and that’s why I don’t like Kevin Pietersen”. This refers to Pietersen who was brought up in South Africa leaving there to join England. Pietersen has described Graeme Smith as an “absolute muppet” in his book Crossing the Boundary.
Smith has also had problems with the current Test England captain Michael Vaughan during the 2004–05 England tour of South Africa over a dispute concerning bad light during the 4th test in Smith’s native Johannesburg. In Vaughan’s second book Calling the Shots Vaughan refers to Smith as “the witness”.Vaughan lost his entire match fee for the match after the dispute.
Graeme Smith Career Averages