England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 3rd day July 21, 2012

Historic ton the fruit of Smith labours


Graeme Smith is due to leave England before the second Test to attend the birth of his first child but, as he marked his 100th Test with a century, his wife, the Irish singer Morgan Deane, joked on Twitter that her waters had broken already.

Smith, who will return in time to lead South Africa again at Headingley on August 2, laughed it off and said he tries not to read all her posts these days. "She's very impulsive, I'm trying to calm her down a bit," he said. "She's been very supportive though, considering she is going to give birth so soon."

If there was doubt about Smith's abilities as a batsman and leader, they have surely all been squashed. His 25th Test hundred was also his seventh against England, fifth in England and made him the seventh player to have scored a century on a landmark 100th Test.

Having also brought up big scores on both South Africa's previous tours here, combined with the fact that the team have never lost a Test when Smith has crossed the three-figure mark, his reputation is at its peak. The actual magnitude of what he has achieved hasn't formed a solid memory quite yet but he is starting to grasp what significance it has.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet. It was kind of surreal at the time. A lot of thoughts and emotions went through my head," Smith said. "It was a dream come true to come out and have the chance to do that. At one stage when Graeme Swann was spinning it past my bat, the hundred looked a long time away but once I fought through those tough times, it became a reality."

Smith said he expected a tough passage of play up front but knew that if he could see it through, there may be an opportunity to wrest control of the match. "It was a battle of attrition out there really," he said. "There weren't many scoring opportunities available to me so it was about being strong in my game plan. We expected that tactic from England this morning, that they would try and squeeze us as much as possible and cause us to make a mistake. We felt that if we could hold the game in that period of time we would be able to get a release somewhere."

After a cautious start, in which "the key factor was the way I left the ball this morning", Smith and Hashim Amla took 72 runs off the 13 overs before lunch, which included Smith's century. "When I got to 100, there was so many emotions: from the battle with Swann to knowing my wife is giving birth in three days' time," he said. "All those things were coming through. I don't even think I realised how I was celebrating. It is a blank moment in my mind."

There is still work to do before he turns his mind to fatherhood. "The way we bounced back with the ball has been probably the biggest achievement of this Test match so far," he said. "On day one, we were 50-50, we were solid without having an X-factor in our game. It's so easy to let the game drift from that position and be playing the rest of the Test match under massive pressure but we were able to keep England under pressure."

Now, Smith wants to go for the kill. He has already considered South Africa's strategy for closing out this match but was careful not to reveal too much. "I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We've got two guys, Amla and Jacques Kallis, close to milestones tomorrow and I would love them to get there," he said. "It's been a difficult wicket to push on and score greater than three runs an over but if we set up a good base, hopefully we can do that."

Although Smith expects a tighter effort from England, he was bullish in his assessment of whether South Africa has what it takes to win. "We need to respect our opponent, they have the ability to bounce back," he said. "But we want to have a chance to push for a victory. I believe we have the ability to win, if we set the game up right. If we give ourselves the chance to bowl out England, I believe we've got the armoury to do that."

David Saker, England's bowling coach, called the pitch "subcontinental" and expects it to deteriorate, which could set the stage for the legspinner Imran Tahir to ignite his South Africa career. Smith was hopeful that would be the case. "It is quite dusty and quite dry. There is a turn available and it will be a good opportunity for Imran to get in," he said. "His form looks pretty solid. I don't want to put too much pressure on him but, on day five, if we are bowling for the win, he will have to play a prominent role."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Benjamin on July 24, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    Why does Sachin always manage to a mention when he's got absolutely nothing to do with this series?? I mean really? Get over him, he's a great batsman sure but to mention him in this thread please.

    Mr Smith I was a great disliker of you back when your first took over a captain. Always claiming you would win this series and beat that team you were way too head strong and perhaps just a bit young for the roll. My how you have flourished. Without the attitude you've become a great leader and a brilliant opener and congratulations on your individual and teams success.

    Well done G.Smith and Co.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    Well done SA... I am very pleased with the effort, especially the downfall of England!

  • Harmon on July 23, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    Contd. And the reason why players like Sachin, Ponting and Hayden are better players than Kallis is cos they have the ability to score big knocks consistently and on top of it, they do it fairly quickly. I would also add Amla (with a caveat) to this list as an after thought. They've got the best combination of both the worlds. And no doubt this is the reason why they are considered top notch Test batsmen as well as ODI batsmen. If anything then Kallis can be compared to Chanderpaul or Dravid or Cook. Kallis scores runs at a rate similar to these players and is as consistent as them - may be a bit more consistent. There is a reason why Kallis has only 1 double century in tests after 150 tests - he eats up too many balls to reach 150-160. An apt example is today - Kallis ought to have hastened after getting his 100 but he did that only marginally. I was hoping that he would get out so that ABD could score a quick 40 ball 70 but SA declared by that time.

  • Harmon on July 23, 2012, 11:33 GMT

    As far as the argument goes that Sachin is not great cos he never faced WI fast bowlers, well, I would say that I can turn this around and say the WI bowlers were themselves lucky...what now? And as for comparison with Kallis, no doubt Kallis has a A-Grade record but Kallis is not exactly an impact player. I am not even comparing Kallis to Sehwag or Gayle but to those who score slower but still make an impact. Players such as KP or Ponting or Sachin et al in tests and Kohli & Hayden et al in ODIs. Don't get me wrong - please don't pooh pooh this by saying that Kallis has a better record etc. I know some of you would scorn at me comparing Kallis with KP. But my point is, it is one thing to score piles of runs at a steady rate consistently and it is another thing to score runs quickly. Both these skills are to be appreciated. I like Kallis for the former and like the others for the latter reasons. But Kallis would rarely ever win a match due to his quick batting - has he?

  • Harmon on July 23, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    @StaalBurgher: May I say that the ONLY reason why Kallis has more wickets than Sachin is cos he has bowled a lot more than Sachin. How does it sound? Ridiculous, right? Similarly, it sounds ridiculous for someone to say that Sachin's got more runs cause he has played more tests - Well, it is his talent that he can survive this long, just like it is Kallis' talent with the ball. Btw, has Kallis ever won a match by bowling a last over like Sachin's in Hero Cup vs SA? Finally, I would like to tell you and other disgruntled readers here that it was not an Indian fan who brought Sachin into the context needlessly here. It was a fellow named "LESLEY95" who out of the blue compared Smith's 100 with Sachin's 100 100s, so I hope you would now blame him and not the Indians who are only trying to douse the fire started by others. Take Care - don't take so much offense, life is short and this series is only 3 test long. As I type Eng are 117/5 and may roll over before lunch - Won't it please you?

  • Bhavik on July 23, 2012, 10:15 GMT

    To all Sachin bashers....even if you want to post mindless unwarranted anti Sachin comments, please restrict it to articles about Sachin. This article is on Smith and lets talk about him here. He is surely amongst one of the better batsmen and captains to have played international cricket and deserves to be appreciated for his contribution to world cricket.

  • Harmon on July 23, 2012, 10:11 GMT

    Hmm. Firstly, it wasn't Indians who mentioned Sachin in this article first. It was some fellow named "LESLEY95" comparing Smith's 100 to Sachin's 100 (btw which one?). So since the Indians did not start the fire they should not be blamed. Next, if the tendency of someone is to compare anything done by anyone anywhere to anything done by Sachin then as a direct result the Sachin Fans are going to counter that by saying it wasn't such a big thing by the first player. I do admire Smith for his 100 and esp the occasion but in my mind a bigger occasion is that he is a soon-to-be-father and he got a 100. But if anyone says that this was a 100 better than any 100 Sachin has scored then obviously he does not know Cricket. I suppose I don't need to mention how graceful Smith looks while batting - I know this is a bitter comment but thats what anyone would feel if stupid comparisons are made. I do give it to Smith for a fab 100 but why get into Sachin needlessly all the time?

  • greig on July 23, 2012, 9:44 GMT

    @Lourens Grobbelaar

    Read Randy's posts properly. In his commentary he is having a go at the weak english bowling NOT smiths batting. As a south african, stop being so south african.

    Randy's posts are a pleasure to read and long may they continue.

  • shak on July 23, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    SA. Will show the Pakistan win over England, weren't a fluke. The problem with England in every sport is that they have a few decent results and all of a sudden they're the greatest. Lol. The truth is south Africa have performed home and away recently, therefore deserving of no1 status.

  • Gerald on July 23, 2012, 8:41 GMT

    And why is Sachin brought up AGAIN?!! Just because there happens to be a billion Indians that rate him does not in fact make him the greatest of all time. Everyone knows he is an excellent batsman. No one denies it. No one is saying Graeme Smith is better than Sachin, because he isn't. Graeme is good, better than most will give him credit for, but his primary attribute for SA has always been his attitude and hard edge. His centuries have often been balls-to-the-wall game winning efforts. I don't know or care how that stacks up to Sachin or any other batsman because he deserves praise regardless of whether he is better or worse than another. Amla, Kallis, AB are all "better" batsmen than him but the SA team will be a lot less formidable without his presence. And people, the only reason Sachin has more runs and centuries than Kallis is because he has played 35 Tests more. Add in nearly 300 Test wickets and we all know who the greatest player is. ;)

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