London: Graeme Smith continued to give England a one-man whipping as he completed his second double hundred in consecutive Tests at Lord’s on Friday.
The rain probably saved England in the first Test, but it will surely take floods and pestilence in the second to deter Smith’s South Africans as they ended a truncated second day on 412 for two, with a 239-run first-innings lead.
Smith, who made 277 and 85 in the first Test, closed on 214 not out, having batted for seven and three-quarter hours, when bad light cut 18 overs off the end of the day. Gary Kirsten added a century during a second-wicket partnership of 257, but remained firmly on the undercard as the 22-year-old Smith hogged top billing with another raft of records.
Only three men — Don Bradman (three times), Walter Hammond and Vinod Kambli — have previously hit double hundreds in consecutive matches.
Only three men have scored more in a Test innings at Lord’s, and no South African has ever scored more career double centuries. Smith, in only his 17th innings, now boasts three, equalling Kirsten’s mark. All three of Smith’s doubles have been scored well within a year.
The left-hander, with his broad bat and relentless determination, made a mockery of England on Friday. At times, proceedings at Lord’s veered towards village cricket.
England served up cafeteria bowling and Smith bypassed all civilities by helping himself from the very start.
He clipped strike bowler James Anderson’s second ball off the leg stump for four to the vacant fine-leg boundary. Next over, Steve Harmison offered him a short, wide ball first up which Smith cut for another boundary.
Anderson and Harmison, England’s rising young pace bowlers, sunk without trace.
Smith did not offer a genuine chance all day. It was Kirsten, on 54, who edged Andrew Flintoff to second slip where Mark Butcher juggled and dropped the catch. Moments later, it was Kirsten again who repeated the shot, the ball this time falling just short of Butcher.
Smith has a strong bottom hand, which can drag his bat across the line from off to leg. It does not much matter, however, if you never miss the ball.
Smith kept flicking away in a leg-side arc between mid-wicket and fine leg. Occasionally, when required, there was a powerful drive or a cut. England’s failings apart, Smith’s performance was one of real character.
England coach Duncan Fletcher admitted that Michael Vaughan’s men had under-performed as South Africa piled on the agony. “It’s been very difficult for us and I am really surprised by the way they have turned it around,” said Fletcher. “We haven’t played to our potential, but the Tests are very different to one-dayers. We just need a couple of guys to bowl well.
He also admitted that the experience had been a rude awakening for new skipper Vaughan. “I think he has been a little surprised by it but he was thrown in at the deep end,” said the coach.