Joe Root becomes the context and goodbye to Ian Smith

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If we were tasked with producing a faceless match report for the Twenty20 international between England and New Zealand, we’d write: “Joe Root top-scored in an innings in which Jason Roy and Sam Billings showed great promise,” or something like that.

Joe Root is not the focus there. He’s context. He’s something you mention but don’t feel the need to write about at great length. Root’s form has clearly gone beyond being remarkable and become unremarkable. Who knows whether it’s a high point or a false summit, but it’s still worth taking a snapshot. He currently averages 54.11 in Tests, 42.36 in one-day internationals and 41.83 (with a strike-rate of 131.41) in Twenty20. That is better than fancying a brew in the belief that you’re out of milk but then discovering that actually, no, you’re not out of milk so you can have a brew after all.

Last night’s match was also a sad end, however. This New Zealand cricket team who have been such fun will now disperse (for only a few of them will actually go home). This is disappointing enough in itself, but it also means that Ian Smith walks out of the Sky commentary box.

We appreciate this is of little interest to those of you who don’t get to see live coverage, but Smith deserves a nod all the same. We’ve always liked him, but didn’t perhaps realise how much until this summer. Smith can offer insights into the New Zealand cricket team and the dark art of wicketkeeping, but it’s his demeanour which is his greatest strength.

Quite simply, he enjoys cricket, which doesn’t always seem to be the case with some commentators. He also enjoys his job and his English colleagues clearly enjoy working with him more than most. Smith, Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain have exchanged (good-natured) dry jibes with increasing frequency and when David Lloyd tried to discomfit him with one of his trademark man-of-the-people digressions, Smith smoothly outmanoeuvred him without breaking stride.

For reasons known only to himself, Lloyd was testing Smith on bingo calls and when the Kiwi didn’t know one, Lloyd asked: “Do you not have bingo down there?”

“Yes,” said Smith, and cited a different bingo call as proof. “What’s that?” asked Lloyd. Smith gave him the answer and then shot back: “Do you not have bingo up here?”

Point is, Ian Smith can give and take a joke without the unsavoury word ‘banter’ welling up in your mind. It’s a priceless ability for a commentator and as the Ashes wears on, we’ll undoubtedly miss that.


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  1. There are two things about all this one-day success/excitement:

    (1)So far, it fits the previously discussed pattern of making changes after a poor World Cup, getting good for a bit, then it all falling apart again in time for the next World Cup.

    (2)It has now made English cricket fans somewhat optimistic going into an Ashes series, when the last two Test series have seen disappointing outcomes against teams which Australia would expect to beat comfortably.

    We’re being set up, here, aren’t we?

  2. My favourite bit of Ian Smith commentary was from, I think, 2004. It involved a left-arm spinner – either Giles or Vettori – ripping one from leg to hit the top of off.

    “He’s done him like a dinner.” was Smith’s joyous verdict. It must have been shortly before lunch…

  3. From what I could tell, yesterday’s commentary mainly involved Ian Smith slating Michael Atherton’s dress sense.

    Seems like ‘banter’ to me.

  4. The Hussain-Smith routines over the past few weeks have been a thing of beauty.

    Assume Sky are replacing him with Warne now. Bleurghhhhh.

  5. I’ve been enjoying Brian Waddle and Jeremy Coney on TMS, that latter of whom is wonderfully miserable.

    1. Aye, Coney’s classic. Presume Jim Maxwell will replace him at TMS, which is at least an acceptable trade, unlike Smith for Warne.

      Oh please, please tell us what Cook’s doing wrong now, Shane? Is he not being aggressive enough by any chance?

    2. On TMS, Glenn McGrath’s back. (As in returned. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.)

      Please do predict the scoreline again Glenn. We all love that sort of thing.

    3. Coney is a legend. His commentary stints are always one of the first things I’m looking forward to if Eng are in NZ or vice versa.

    1. “Jeff and Square Jeff”. It’s not quite an invisible horse, but I’ll take it.

    2. That annoyed us. We want to know how Square Jeff differs from Jeff, which he supposedly introduced a couple of years ago.

    3. That article annoyed me as well. There is no ‘r’ in peninsula. What sort of rubbish newspapes do you have over there?

  6. It seems that he keeps Jeff in his right pocket and Square Jeff in his left pocket so that the England team can’t see it.

  7. I’m watching Shamsi bowl in the CPL. He is described as a left arm Chinaman, I don’t think that is PC is it?

    1. What, we can’t call left arm bowlers ‘left arm’ any more? This is getting ridiculous.

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