Will Smith was the one batsman who didn’t score runs for Durham last year, which might not immediately mark him out as being worth watching, but the year before that he was arguably their best batsman.
We’re putting the mediocre batting down to his being made captain in 2009. It’s like when someone’s knocking at the door while you’re trying to write about Will Smith of Durham: it’s a distraction and you can’t deal with both at once.
Actually, maybe it’s a bit different. Judging from the fact that Smith hit 150 in his penultimate match last season, maybe you learn to cope with both. In the other situation, eventually the knocking just stops – as does the writing about Will Smith of Durham.
We decided to make Will Smith one to watch this season in August last year. That was before he was made Durham captain. Don’t know whether that will affect him.
We’d been keeping an eye on him anyway, but the match that decided it was against Hampshire at Basingstoke. The wicket flattened out later on to allow Hampshire to chase 240 in the fourth innings, but 16 wickets fell on the first day and 19 on the second. The only batsman to score more than 28 in that time was Will Smith, who hit 70.
He also scored 201 not out against Surrey and averaged 51 over the course of the season. That average is all the more impressive when you consider he plays half his cricket at Chester-le-Street. For county champions, Durham’s batting averages aren’t good. If you’re going to play for Durham, be a bowler.
Will Smith’s average was the highest for Durham bar Gareth Breese’s freakish average of 184 from two innings.
Michael Di Venuto averaged 46. Di Venuto’s hit 47 first-class hundreds. He’s an okay bat. Dale Benkenstein averaged 43. He’s an okay bat. The only other batsman to average over 30 was Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He’s most definitely an okay bat.
Smith topped them all and batted at three.
Durham’s bowling attack is getting all the attention, but don’t forget that they’ve prepared pitches to suit it and their batsmen have had to bat on those very same tracks.
Not many of Durham’s batsmen have prospered. Most of their 2008 averages aspire to mediocrity. Of Durham players who’ve played more than a couple of games, only four average over 30.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul – 411 runs at 37.36
Shiv’s currently ranked as the best Test batsman in the world. You would hope for runs from him. As Lord Megachief of Gold, you would positively demand them.
Dale Benkenstein – 783 runs at 43.50
Players hit more runs at better averages for other counties, but these runs were more valuable. We move that Dale Benkenstein be nicknamed ‘Benkensteino’ from now on.
Michael Di Venuto – 1,058 runs at 46
No-one else made more than 1,000 runs for Durham. Australian batsmen who aren’t quite good enough for the Test side are so important in county cricket, it’s obscene. We move that Michael Di Venuto be nicknamed ‘Dio Venuto-o’ from now, on the grounds that it’s so catchy and easy to say.
Will Smith – 925 runs at 51.38
Will Smith is perhaps of most interest. He’s scored half of his first-class hundreds (three) this season and we’re not giving much away if we say he’ll be one to watch next season.