SMITH, O'NEILL GORDON, who died in hospital at Stoke-on-Trent on September 9, aged 26, following injuries received in a motor-car accident in which two other West Indies players, G. Sobers and T. Dewdney, were also involved, took part in 26 Test matches between 1955 and 1959, scoring 1,331 runs, including four centuries, average 31.69. His death came as a heavy blow to the West Indies, for much had been hoped from him against P. B. H. May's M.C.C. team last winter.
Smith's interest in cricket began at the age of seven and, such was his rapid advance, he gained a place in the team at St. Alban's School, Jamaica, when nine and became captain inside three years. Later at Kingston College he progressed still further, but not till 1955 did he first appear for Jamaica. This was against the visiting Australians and he gave full evidence of his quality by playing an innings of 169, he and A. P. Binns putting on 277 for the sixth wicket. That performance earned him a place in the opening Test match and, by hitting 104 in the second innings, he joined the list of men who obtained a century on Test debut. His success in three other Tests in the series was limited--indeed, he was dismissed for 0 and 0 in the second--but, with characteristic cheerfulness, he did not allow setbacks to deter him and from 1956, when he toured New Zealand, his place in the team was firmly established.
He learned to curb his natural desire to hit at practically every ball, though he never lost his punishing powers, and in England in 1957 he took 161 in the Edgbaston Test, becoming the only batsman to register a century on first appearance against both Australia and England. In the third meeting with England at Trent Bridge he made his highest Test score, 168, doing much to rescue the West Indies from what had seemed a hopeless position. "Collie" Smith was also a useful off-break bowler, having turned from pace to spin after watching J. C. Laker during the M.C.C. tour of 1948. During the summers of 1958 and 1959 he achieved marked all-round success as professional to Burnley in the Lancashire League. His body was taken to Jamaica where it was estimated that about 60,000 people attended the funeral.
Tributes to Smith included:
Sir Kenneth Blackburne, Governor of Jamaica: "The name of Collie Smith will long live as an example not only of a fine cricketer, but also of a great sportsman. He will provide inspiration for our youth in the future."
J. F. Dare, President of the West Indies Board of Control: "He was one of a diminishing band who play a game for the game's sake and he had a great future before him."
F. C. M. Alexander, West Indies and Jamaica captain: "His passing is a tremendous loss to those of us who came to realise what a wonderful spirit of cricket he was."
S. C. Griffith, Assistant-Secretary of M.C.C.: "His death came as a terrible blow to all cricketers in England who have the future of the game at heart."