So much is written about Ed Smith the non-cricketer that it is often easy to forget what a talented player he is. Very much a batsman with a preference for front foot strokes, his prolific county form for Kent in 2003 won him selection for three Tests against South Africa. Much of the press around his selection centred on the fact that he had a double-first from Cambridge, and that he had written a book on the comparison between baseball and cricket (he has also since had a diary of his 2003 season published). Smith himself was always modest about his extra curricular activities, explaining deprecatingly that fast bowlers were rarely intimidated by impressive academic qualifications. A fluent 64 on debut at Nottingham was followed by a first baller in the second innings, but his media exaggerated upper-crustness was one of the main (good-natured) discussion points in the England dressing room. Certain sections of the media also chose to ignore the substance of his impressive debut to mention the slight physical resemblance to Prince William. Three failures followed however, and Smith was overlooked in failure of Paul Collingwood for the winter tours to Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. Despite another strong county season in 2004, rumours flooded out of Canterbury that he was an isolated figure in the Kent dressing room, and that several senior players had been mutinous when he was appointed stand-in skipper. As such, there was little surprise when he made the short journey to Lords to join Middlesex. He couldnt quite repeat the form of his previous two seasons, but he did play a big part in Middlesex avoiding relegation to the second division of the Championship. Smith will need a lot of runs to get his name back in the Test frame, with several younger, untested batsmen currently ahead of him in the queue. However, for all that Smith is an interesting and eloquent character without bat in hand, it should be remembered that for one innings at least it erroneously looked that England had found a cast iron middle-order certainty for years to come.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)