I found the recent South Africa series win a truly great contest dictated by a courageous Graham Smith.
Having not won in Australia as a team in 16 years and having not scored a test century as a player against Australia, Graham Smith could have been excused for not being hopeful of a result. Yet from the outset Smith showed his determination and strength playing through an injured elbow and later, a broken finger.
Starting his fist innings, Smith made 48 before being bowled by a magnificent Mitchell Johnson who would go on to make an eight wicket demolition of South Africa.
Smith came into the second innings chasing a mammoth score of 414. This gladiator of cricket, stood strong and made his first test century against Australia scoring 108, which proved to be the foundation of South Africa’s record fourth innings run down.
Battling through the pain, Smith would not show any signs of weakness, frustrating his opponents even more.
Smith, again, scoring in the second test at the iconic MCG stadium took the South Africans forward. The inspirational skipper made 62 and 75 to guide South Africa to a 2-0 lead in the three match test series.
Smith, who became South Africa’s youngest ever captain at 22, recorded his 24th test fifty on this historic day when South Africa became the first team in 16 years to defeat the Aussies in their homeland.
It was the third test, which would show Smiths true spirit and courage: Having broken his finger after a wicked fast bowl from Mitchell Johnson, Smith retired hurt on 30 during the first innings.
The Australians regained some form in the absence of Smith and declared in the second innings with a lead of 375. It was a hard chase down for the South Africans but they had proved in the previous two tests that they were not shy of a challenge.
Throughout the third and fourth day there had been talk of Smith returning to the match, with little chance of a win on the final day, South Africa were out for a draw.
Australia thought they had rapped up the win when they dismissed Dale Steyn for 28, but during the celebrations a resilient Smith appeared from the pavilion. Walking to the crease, with a standing ovation, Smith needed to partner Ntini for 7.2 overs.
Playing with a broken left finger and a troublesome right elbow, Smith stood strong and faced up to the speeding balls heading his way. The duo managed to get agonisingly close to a draw with only 10 balls remaining when Smith was bowled by the man that had broken his finger, Mitchell Johnson.
In returning to the crease, Smith had gained the admiration of players and fans alike, staking his place in history as a great captain. Smith being named man of the series was a fitting end to an enthralling test series, one that I will remember for a long time.
There were some great performances from a number of players throughout the contest but for me it was Smith who stood tall from the rest.