March 20, 1969, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire
Also Known As
Left hand Bat
Right arm Medium
Rachael Heyhoe-Flint and Clare Connor may have higher profiles, but another England captain - Karen Smithies - also made her mark when, in 1993, aged 24 and in her first year as captain, she led England to their second World Cup victory, against New Zealand at Lord's. She was later awarded the OBE for her services to the game, a contribution which included the ruffling of a few press-box feathers. Derek Pringle was still smarting 12 years later when, in 2005, he recalled: "Smithies was only too happy to point out where the men, who have never won a World Cup, had been going wrong - advice not exactly appreciated at the time."
Her own advice when captain was largely solid, though: in ten Tests as skipper she was undefeated, leading England to one victory and nine draws. And she bowed out from the Test arena in fitting style: with a pair of half-centuries in the drawn Test against India. Her one-day record wasn't bad, either - England won 23 of 45 matches under her stewardship. But her reign came to an abrupt end when Australia whitewashed England 4-0 in 1999-2000. Her decision to hand over the reins to the vice-captain Connor came amid criticism of her captaincy and strategy as an opening batsman: she finished the series with a strike-rate of 29.55 runs per 100 balls. She played just two more ODIs - against New Zealand in February 2000 - and, although she had been originally named as the captain for the December World Cup campaign, Smithies never played another match for England in either form of the game.
She didn't exactly burst on to the international scene: she neither batted nor bowled on her one-day debut aged 17, when England beat India at Osterley. Her Test debut one year later was similarly inauspicious: she scored just 2 and took no wickets in 25 overs in the drawn Test against Australia.
Jenny Thompson March 2005
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