Flashback: Graeme Smith - The Warrior
As the most anticipated series between Australia and South Africa is being played out down under, let us recall one of their best encounters. Back in 2009 in Sydney, in the third and final test, Australia needed two wickets to win the match and 8.2 overs were left. Australia were fancying their chances to win the match by taking the wicket of the last pair of South Africa Steyn and Ntini. Just then, Steyn was caught in the crease lbw off the bowling of Andrew McDonald. Australian players starting to celebrate the win heard a loud cheer and applause from the crowd for a batsmen walking from the South African dressing room with a broken hand to save his team from losing, even though the team had already won the series. Can you guess who that brave hero was?
Australia, upon winning the toss and electing to bat, scored a massive total of 445. In response, the South African opening pair was in the process of giving a good start to the team when the most unfortunate thing happened. Graeme Smith, in trying to defend a delivery off Mitchell Johnson, misjudged the bounce of the pitch and the ball hit the glove which resulted in him breaking his hand. He left the crease with pain and was not seen on the field for the next 2 days
Chasing a target of 375, South Africa were 202 for 8. Graeme Smith being injured, Australia were a wicket away from winning the match. The South African pair of Dale Steyn and Ntini resisted them with a partnership of 50 runs in 18 overs, but the pair couldn’t last longer as Dale Steyn was caught lbw. Seeing the South African skipper walking from the dressing room to save the match for his team with his broken hand, the crowd rose to its feet. His own blood had been recently injected into his right elbow. He was in such pain that he was not able to even tap his partner with that hand.
Smith being roared to the center, tried to block out the pain, but it was there whenever he defended. Leaving the balls was easier for him but to make it worse, Australia introduced Bollinger and Mitchell Johnson, who were bowling above 140 kmph. With the pain in the hand, he played 17 deliveries to try and save the match but he was undone by an in-swinging delivery by Michell Johnson when there were 11 balls left for the day.
Smith said “I just decided to give it my best shot, If I got a first-baller, at least I tried, that was what was going through my head. There was a lot of pain, I’d just had injections in my elbow and this [his hand] is obviously not very friendly at the moment, but I was grateful I never got another knock on either part of my body.”
It says so much about his character that, in spite of having won the series, he still wanted to deny Australia any success. It also says so much about his love for the sport and his willingness to give his best for his team without considering the pain. He is one of the bravest player I have ever seen. I rate him as one of the best and this is one of his best innings, even though he just faced 17 balls.