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Edwin Smith - A life in Derbyshire cricket

Steve Dolman
1.34K   //    19 May 2015, 03:04 IST
Derbyshire cricket team of 1969 (Edwin Smith second from right, sitting)

A few weeks ago, 'Old Supporter' asked when the interview that I did with Edwin Smith would appear on the blog. The short answer is that it won't. After spending two hours in the company of Edwin and his delightful wife, Jean, it became patently obvious to me that his was a story that required telling in much greater detail than the space afforded by this site, even split into several 'chunks'.

This, let's not forget, is a man who took over 1200 wickets for the county over a twenty-year career that started at the age of seventeen, before going on to become county coach. He was the last man to take a thousand wickets for Derbyshire and will almost certainly be the last. In most other eras he would have walked into an England side, especially since many of those wickets were taken on wickets prepared for our many fine seam bowlers in that period...Gladwin, Jackson (Les and Brian) Rhodes, Ward, Hendrick...legends, to a man.

Had Edwin played for Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan or any of several other counties where wickets were often spin-friendly, he would have got closer to two thousand wickets. Not just with off spinners, but with one of the best of arm balls, years in the making, together with a cunning top spinner.

His memory of people and events is still, at 81, remarkably sharp and the tales that he has to tell had me laughing and realising that most of them had never before been put to paper. It seemed such a waste and I wanted to do something about it.

Thankfully, the Association of Cricket Historians and Statisticians agreed and asked me to write his story. As a result, this August Edwin Smith: a Life in Derbyshire Cricket will be published by them, the result of many phone calls to Edwin, his team mates and opponents, as well as many sessions where I was made most welcome in their Grassmoor home, immersing myself in his tales and poring over a wonderful collection of Derbyshire cricket memorabilia.

If I have done the job right, it should be informative and amuse you in equal measure. He played with some of the greatest characters in our history and both his and their stories should make you realise how lucky we have been over the years to watch them.

I was just grateful (and humbled) to spend time chatting and corresponding with such names as Mike Page, Harold Rhodes, Bob Taylor, Brian Jackson, Peter Gibbs, Peter Eyre, David Smith, Fred Swarbrook, Colin Tunnicliffe, David Steele and Geoffrey Boycott. The input of them all was and is appreciated. To a man they were friendly, patient and helpful.

Only five men in Derbyshire's 145-year history have taken more wickets than Edwin and his story is really quite special, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. You will also find that he was one of the finest amateur snooker players in the area, with tales of matches against some of the biggest names of the sport. You can do that, when you have recorded a highest break of 130.

He's a special, wonderfully engaging man, is Edwin Smith, with a fascinating story.

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Steve Dolman
I work in retail and have been published in the Derbyshire Cricket Yearbook, as well as having a book in print on a different subject.
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