Cow Corner

Graeme Smith: Captain Colossus

There are times when one wonders if there is any way of stopping Graeme Smith, and England must have contemplated their fate amid the toil with borderline despair.

Smith battled out a typically gutsy, robust innings to grind England into The Oval dust alongside fellow centurion Hashim Amla to stamp his side's authority on the match in emphatic fashion.

Captain Colossus scored 131 runs off 273 balls in 367 minutes with 20 fours, fulfilling his intention to redress the balance of the match in the tourists' favour, all while leaving the opposition despondent and dispirited.

His six-hour innings will be remembered for a long time, as he shared in a potentially match-defining partnership of 259 with the right-handed Hashim Amla, who was himself unbeaten on 183 at the close of play.

But that hardly tells the real story of the day.

Smith was playing in his 100th Test match (99 for South Africa, one was the bogus World XI match against Australia in Sydney in 2005) and he marked the occasion with a century which epitomised his character and the resolve for which he is renowned.

In so doing, he became the seventh man to score a century in his 100th Test, joining Colin Cowdrey, Javed Miandad, Gordon Greenidge, Alec Stewart, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ricky Ponting in achieving the feat.

Smith has always seemed to have particular pleasure in subjecting England to epic stints in the field, chasing his shots around the ground, and this was his sixth century against them - including the double centuries which saw the powerful left-hander make his name back in 2003.

During the tour of England in 2003 he made double centuries in consecutive Tests: 277 (and 85 from 70 balls in the second innings) in the first Test at Edgbaston, and 259 in an innings victory in the second at Lord's. His 277 remained the highest individual Test innings scored by a South African until November 2010.

In making 154 not out in the final innings of the third Test against England in 2008, the South African captain delivered his country's first series victory on English soil since 1965, and, according to Wisden at the time, produced "one of the all-time captain's innings".

It was the fourth time he had made a winning century in the fourth innings of a Test. No batsman in history can match that.

But perhaps more striking, is that out of the 100 Tests that Smith has played, he has been captain in 92 of them. Only Allan Border (93 Tests in charge) has captained his country more often, and Smith will surely go past him at Lord's. Only Ricky Ponting — with 48 wins — has overseen more victories for his country; Smith has 42. Quite remarkable statistics, and he is still just 31-years-old.

The perceived wisdom is that Test captains in this hectic era have a life span of five years maximum; Smith has been in charge of South Africa since April 2003 and has revealed "renewed in the job" since Gary Kirsten came on board.

The hunger is still quite clearly there in abundance; the desire for success still firmly in tact. His innings at The Oval, in many respects, resembled Test cricket of a bygone era: gruelling; unforgiving; arduous. Testing the patience; testing the resolve.

There has always seemed to be very little to stop Smith when at his belligerent, confident best - particularly when he is playing against England - and now he has another hugely impressive statistic to his name.

This is no longer a brash, confrontational cricket desperate to make his mark even when shouting from mid on; Smith now resembles a wise, astute captain at slip, leaving his batting to do most of the talking.

Smith is a leader of incredible clout and a batsman of remarkable steel. His presence is colossal and he has yet again delivered for his side when it really mattered.

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STAT OF THE DAY: Smith became the seventh man to score a century in his 100th Test, after Cowdrey (in 1968), Miandad (1989), Greenidge (1990), Stewart (2000), Inzamam (2005), Ponting (2006), Smith (2012).

CHAMPAGNE MOMENT OF THE DAY: Well, forget the champagne - Strauss managed to break his own sunglasses by hurling the ball into them as they dropped off his sun hat. Despite the plight of his side, the England captain saw the funny side.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "South Africa may have never lost when Graeme Smith scores a hundred ... but England have never lost when Brezzie lad plays, full stop." (@alanroderick remains optimistic with Tim Bresnan the source of his hope)

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: In the 10 years Smith has captained South Africa, England have had seven skippers. A team needs continuity. The "drop them, they're not performing in three matches" cries should stay where they belong ... in the 90's. Smith will pass Allan Border's record of 92 matches as captain at the Lord's Test. England's most experienced captain was, Atherton with 54. We can't keep chopping and changing and hope to retain form. This should be the England side for a long time, let's just enjoy it." (Telaw)