Magical 2014 secures captaincy for Smith

Magical 2014 secures captaincy for Smith

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(c) Luke Adams
It wasn’t the season Lancashire were hoping for. Their return to the top-flight of English cricket lasted just one year with only a handful of positives to be drawn from a disappointing year.

One such positive, however, was that of Tom Smith, who secured the hearts and admiration of the Lancashire faithful in a season which will have done no harm to his recent appointment as club captain.

Born in Liverpool in 1985, Smith was one of many talented players to come through the Lancashire academy and since then he has become one of the most dedicated servants the club has ever seen. His performances across all three formats of the game, all-round status and consistency meant that last year, there was sparsely a game where his name was not mentioned.

From the very first game of the 2014 season, Smith made his mark with bat and ball and it became apparent rather quickly that he was going to be a key figure in Lancashire’s battle for survival. The season began with a narrow defeat at Nottinghamshire, a game in which Smith scored 45 not out and 76. He then claimed 5-53 to give his side a small chance of achieving victory in the season curtain-raiser.

Despite his efforts, and that of Ashwell Prince who scored 100 in Lancashire’s chase of 349, the visitors were beaten and this established an unfortunate precedent for Lancashire who became accustomed to the aforementioned Smith and Prince for the provision of contributions with bat and ball.

Smith is celebrated by his Lancashire teammates for his efforts with the ball.

In Lancashire’s first victory of the County Championship campaign, Smith made his second fifty of the season in a low-scoring game at Northamptonshire, a match which was also significant due to the input of a certain James Anderson, who claimed match figures of 10-89.

Smith added three wickets and 49 runs in a rain-affected draw at home to Sussex, before Lancashire suffered a resounding 10-wicket defeat against Middlesex, a game which saw the all-rounder score 59 in Lancashire’s first innings.
The Natwest t20 Blast campaign kicked-off earlier than usual on a cold evening in mid May as Lancashire began their incredible and consequently heart-wrenching journey to Finals Day at Edgbaston.
Smith’s role at the top of the order was a vital component of Lancashire’s success last year as he continued to make important contributions to the Lightning’s many successes in the group stages.
A memorable performance at home to Worcestershire secured Lancashire their first victory of the campaign as Smith bludgeoned 74 in 53 deliveries to earn the Lightning a narrow 12-run victory in their second game of the campaign.
Sandwiched between a plethora of t20 cricket was a Roses match in the County Championship, one which Lancashire could have gone on to win, but rain was once again their enemy. Smith’s third half-century in red-ball cricket and figures of 5-49 were in vain as the eventual and deserved County Champions earned a draw at Headingley.
Lancashire secured four t20 victories on the bounce before Yorkshire paid a visit to Emirates Old Trafford, ending the Lightning’s run of success thanks to a devastating performance from Australian batsman Aaron Finch. Smith was key in Lancashire’s innings as he went on to equal the record for the club’s fastest fifty in the format, reaching his half-century in 22 balls, as he helped his side to what seemed to be a winning score of 179-6.
Smith receives a standing ovation for his 22-ball fifty against Yorkshire.

Smith continued to make all-round contributions in Lancashire’s County Championship campaign, scoring his fourth half-century and claiming 3-50 in a draw against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. This was another game where Lancashire were rewarded with a draw despite finishing in the ascendancy, as their hosts collapsed to 86-5 on the final day before the players shook hands.

Lancashire returned to winning ways in the shortest format of the game as Smith made another half-century at the top of the order to sink Leicestershire at Old Trafford and just over a week later, Smith made his highest score of the season against Northamptonshire in a resounding County Championship victory.
Smith’s score of 79 was albeit overshadowed by Prince and recently appointed vice-captain, Steven Croft, who made history with a record-breaking partnership. Both batsmen made their highest first-class scores in Lancashire’s innings and 200-run victory, a game which saw the South-African reach 257 not out as he guided the hosts to 650/6.
Lancashire’s bittersweet season continued as emphatic t20 victories alternated with disappointment in the County Championship. The inception of the 50-over campaign was not a happy one for the Lightning who suffered convincing defeats at home to Yorkshire and Hampshire, as their success in the shortest format of the game remained to be their only cause for optimism.
Frustration ensued as rain forced their quarter final match with Glamorgan to be taken to the reserve day, but when the rain eventually stopped the Lightning progressed to Finals Day with a one-run victory courtesy of an inspired spell of bowling from Jordan Clark, who claimed a triple-wicket maiden to take Lancashire to Edgbaston.
Smith celebrates as Lancashire achieve a nail-biting victory against Glamorgan.

Smith’s most telling contribution of the season came in a four-day game against Durham where Lancashire achieved their third and final win in the format. The Lancashire all-rounder had initially made a positive impact for the hosts with figures of 5-45 in Durham’s first innings before a contribution of 35 not out became one of Lancashire’s most memorable performances with the bat all season.

Such a score would not normally be revered as much, but in the context of Lancashire’s fight for survival and indeed the circumstances in which they secured victory, Smith’s innings was simply incredible. Lancashire had been set 107 to win in 36 overs on the fourth day at Old Trafford, a total which seemed to be more than within their capabilities. With two balls and one wicket intact, Smith and Simon Kerrigan secured a rare victory for Lancashire after they had slumped to 36/5 and 90/9 in their second innings.
Kerrigan and Smith leave the field after securing a vital victory for Lancashire.

Lancashire’s hopes for securing a maiden t20 trophy were shattered in late August at Edgbaston, but Smith continued to make his mark claiming 2-30 in the final, which the Lightning went on to lose by four runs despite some late antics by none other than Andrew Flintoff.

Their relegation battle ended on a similarly disappointing tone, as Lancashire suffered an innings defeat at home to rivals Yorkshire. Smith, once again, did his best to help Lancashire avoid this defeat, scoring 53 in the hosts first innings, but Adam Lyth and his Yorkshire teammates were simply too good.
Lancashire took the matter of relegation to the final day of the season, a position which could not have been achieved without the input of Smith. After suffering a seven-wicket defeat away at Sussex, Lancashire needed to achieve a rare victory at home to Middlesex if they were to stay in Division One. Unfortunately, Smith and Lancashire fell comfortably short in their televised fixture at Old Trafford and a draw resigned the Red Rose to successive relegations.
And so, a disappointing season came to a close. It may not have been a season to remember for Lancashire, but in the personal development of Tom Smith, it most certainly was and as the captain of Lancashire Smith must now lead his side in their quest to return to the top-flight of English cricket.
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