MJ Smith 1942-2004

Mike Smith of Middlesex dies at 62

Steven Lynch

November 12, 2004

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Mike Smith of Middlesex: nearly 20,000 runs and 40 centuries
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The former Middlesex opener Mike Smith, who played five one-day internationals for England in the early 1970s, has died after suffering a heart attack. He was 62.

Smith, who was born and educated in Enfield, started off as a slow left-armer, but it was as an opening batsman that he made his name. He was tall and slim, and developed an unusual walk across the crease, the better to collect runs on his favourite leg side. He was unlucky not to win a Test cap or two, but he had to contend with strong opposition - it was the era of Geoff Boycott and John Edrich, with batsmen such as Dennis Amiss, Brian Luckhurst, Mike Denness and his own county colleague Mike Brearley jostling for positions.

He did break into the England one-day side, at a time when it was seen as more of a testing-ground for Test cricket than a different ball game. He never bettered the 31 he scored in his first match - Boycott made 0 - against West Indies at Headingley in 1973, and finished with 70 runs at 14.00 from those five outings.

In all first-class cricket Smith made 19,814 runs, mostly for Middlesex, between 1959 and 1980, averaging 31.65. He also took 57 wickets (32.73) and, an alert fielder, clasped 218 catches. He made 40 centuries, the highest an innings of 181 against Lancashire at Old Trafford in 1967, made in what Wisden called "faultless style". He made 1065 runs that season, one of 11 years he passed the four-figure mark.

After retiring Smith remained part of the scenery at Lord's, eventually succeeding Harry Sharp as the first-team scorer in 1994. By 2004 he was the last former county player who was still the custodian of the book (which by then had become a computer). Dapper and studious, he remained a deep thinker on the game, never shy of expressing an opinion or airing a theory.

Brearley, in his seminal book The Art of Captaincy, considered the various ways batsmen prepared for an innings. He wrote of his long-time opening partner: "Mike Smith would be having his last-minute 'net' in front of the dressing-room mirror. He clicks his tongue on the roof of his mouth to represent ball on bat as he plays an immaculate forward defensive shot." Elsewhere he recalled Smith's fatalistic approach to batting: "You can never trust bowlers: they develop something new each year."

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.
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