Today at the Oval was about one man: South Africa's titanic Graeme Smith. Yesterday, the hardy locals sat through 96 overs watching the wrong South African as Alviro Petersen composed a fine innings of 167. Today they were kept waiting for another 13 in anticipation of the sight that has kept their cockles warm throughout the dank winter months, that of Smith striding, all Protean girth, across the outfield and to the crease.
As if sensing the crowd's growing ripples of frustration with each delivery that failed to break Somerset's stubborn last-wicket resistance, Smith took matters into his own hands. He switched the previously lacklustre Stuart Meaker to the Pavilion End; Meaker found the edge; and Smith clung on with customary nonchalance to claim the final scalp.
With ball still in hand he marched off into the bowels of The Oval to clad himself in the batsman's battle armour. The consummate tease, Smith sent his young apprentice Rory Burns out to take the first over; having waited over a decade for a debut of such significance (Mark Ramprakash's in 2001), the Surrey faithful were prepared to wait out six more dots.
Then came the moment. First ball: on his pads. Result: leg-side clip. Warm applause was the answer to the sight of which English cricket fans have become long accustomed. It was to be repeated just once more before Peter Trego, possibly the slowest opening bowler on the county circuit, found some extra movement. Smith hung out his bat, hung himself out to dry - snaffled at second slip - and a silence hung all around.Reuse content