TEN years after captaining South Africa with distinction against England at the ripe old age of 22, Graeme Smith led Surrey to a convincing win against Hampshire’s youngsters.
It is hard to believe a decade has passed since Smith dominated the summer of 2003 after arriving on these shores as the Proteas’ fresh-faced young captain, mature beyond his years.
Smith - who scored 714 Test runs at 79 for South Africa that summer - marked his first one-day game as Surrey captain with a sparkling 74 (55 balls), the highest score of his Surrey stint so far. Hampshire were poor in all departments, losing their first YB40 game as defending champions by nine wickets, with 52 balls to spare, after beginning the Bank Holiday weekend with comfortable wins against Essex and Scotland.
The Royals could only muster 228 after winning the toss, around 50 below par on a wicket that Smith will hope to see more of during his stint at The Oval, the ground on which he kick-started last year’s Proteas series win.
Smith is county cricket’s biggest draw since Shane Warne and ensured the 7,000-plus crowd got their money’s worth in the Bank Holiday sunshine, signing autographs as cheerfully as Hampshire’s former captain when the game was won.
His partnership of 162 with fellow left-hander Steven Davies was a one-day record for Surrey against Hampshire - surpassing Darren Bicknell and Alec Stewart’s 144 at The Oval in 1990 – and came in just 20.3 overs.
It was like watching a t20 match as Smith showed no mercy against anything short - cutting and pulling most of his ten fours and clubbing Hamza Riazuddin back over his head for his only six - before eventually falling to a smart James Vince catch at mid-on.
But Steven Davies was then joined by Vikram Solanki. This was not much of a consolation for the likes of Hamza Riazuddin, Sean Ervine and Liam Dawson, who conceded a 173-run partnership to the former Worcestershire openers at New Road four years ago.
Sure enough, Davies went on to complete another one-day hundred against Hampshire, a magnificent unbeaten 127 (104 balls).
He started by hitting James Tomlinson out of the attack. Tomlinson once played a Natwest Trophy match for the Hampshire Cricket Board alongside Smith – against Huntingdonshire 13 years ago – but did not get the chance to bowl to his former teammate as Davies hit him to all parts, including the first of his three sixes, nonchalantly flicked over the short mid-wicket boundary.
Hampshire’s usually high standards in the field slipped as Hamza Riazuddin conceded a four through his legs.
But the tone was set by a poor performance with the bat.
Carberry hit 15 off nine balls before he was caught behind for the second time in two days. But the rest of the top order lost their wickets in careless fashion.
Vince (21) looked set to produce another exhibition before pulling straight to deep backward square-leg, while George Bailey (9) and Jimmy Adams (28) both picked out long-on.
Liam Dawson (36) continued where he left off against Scotland before he was out to a carbon copy of his first-ball dismissal of Kevin Pietersen on the same ground last year, driving fellow left-armer Zafar Ansari to Smith at short extra cover.
Adam Wheater (5), having slog-swept Ansari, then came down the wicket to the slow left-armer and was stumped by a distance.
Chris Wood made a brisk 21 before he was run out after being sent back by Ervine, the only survivor of the Hampshire side that chased down 359 when the Royals last finished a one-day game at The Oval (the record-breaking 2005 Friends Provident Trophy quarter-final).
He raised hopes of another win with a bullish 63 (70 balls). It included a huge leg-side six against Gary Keedy before he became Ansari’s fourth victim when he missed an attempted maximum at the beginning of Hampshire’s penultimate over.
Hampshire were always up against it but are still well placed after two wins from their first three games and host Durham in their next YB40 game on May 19.