Smith – The captain slayer
August 29, 2012 in cricket
Given the tradition of South Africa-England Test series in England few would be surprised that once again England’s test captain had resigned from the leadership role after South Africa yet again proved too much for England to handle. This time Andrew Strauss has been on the receiving end of the normality of this bizarre tradition. Strauss announced his stepping-down from test captaincy today (29 August 2012) at an ECB press conference in England after spending a holiday in Spain with his family, much of the public and the media had expected “Straussy” to announce his resignation from the captaincy role as there were many reports in the hours leading up to the conference that this was indeed the purpose for the conference. What they didn’t know and what nobody expected was for Strauss to announce his retirement from all forms of cricket, internationally and domestically.
In 2003 the Graeme Smith led Proteas arrived on England’s shores with the task of playing a 5 match test series and although England were ranked 4th at the time and South Africa 2nd, England proved a tough nut to crack on their own soil. At the time Nasser Hussain was the English captain and had been playing international cricket for 13 years while Smith on the other hand, had just made his international debut a year earlier, such was the gap in experience for the two captains. The first test match at Edgbaston was drawn with England
being on the receiving end of a mammoth innings of 277 by Smith, the second played at lords, Smith again smashed England, scoring 259 as the Proteas routed England by an innings and 92 runs. The third test match was won by England and the 4th by South Africa, leaving the series at 2-1 to South Africa with a match to play. England then won the last test, drawing the series but the damage had already been done and Hussain had already resigned as Englands Test captain.
Then in 2008 South Africa left for England once again, with Graeme Smith still their leader and England’s captain now Michael Vaughan after taking over from Hussain in 2003. South Africa were a more mature team and Smith a more mature captain which would ultimately prove decisive in the series. The job would be tougher though and there would be less space for error as only a 4 match series was on the table. South Africa found themselves in deep trouble in the first test but were saved and drew the match thanks to hundreds by Hashim Amla, Niel McKenzie and Smith himself. South Africa then went on to win the second test by ten wickets with both AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince scoring superb hundreds. The series was now 1-0 to the South Africans with them just needing to win the next match at Edgbaston to win the series. South Africa were set a target of 281 to win in the fourth innings but were in tatters after losing their top and middle order, with only two players making more than ten but none above 30. However their Captain, Smith was still at the crease, the lone man who could all but watch the carnage from the non-strikers end, and then walked in the mighty figure of Mark Boucher, together him and Smith put on a match winning partnership, Boucher ending on 45 not out and Smith on 154 not out. South Africa had one the series, the first in England since readmission and together came with it, another England captain’s downfall. Vaughan had had enough and stepped down as Skipper of England.
And here we are again in a very similar and traditional situation, a series against the Proteas, this time Strauss at the receiving end of a complete hammering by South Africa in which both him and South Africa’s captain, Smith played in their 100th test match (Smith also becoming the most capped test captain in the games history) only difference is Smith is still in the runs and is still a mighty and astute figure in the cricketing world. Strauss can certainly lift his head higher than both Hussain and Vaughan could, he has led a brilliant England team to back to back Ashes wins as well as taking his team to the number 1 spot in the world, yes his batting has, as Michael Atherton said “gently declined” but his batting average and form does not do the man any justice. Strauss is an honest and humble man and as so many have already said, he chose the right time to walk away, and walk away he did with his head held high.