M. J. K. Smith

Last updated

M. J. K. Smith
Personal information
Full nameMichael John Knight Smith
Born (1933-06-30) 30 June 1933 (age 87)
Westcotes, Leicestershire, England
BowlingRight arm slow-medium
Relations NMK Smith (son)
International information
National side
Test debut(cap  386)5 June 1958 v  New Zealand
Last Test18 July 1972 v  Australia
Domestic team information
1956–1975 Warwickshire
Oxford University
Career statistics
Competition Test FC LA
Runs scored2,27839,8323,106
Batting average 31.6341.8427.48
Top score12120497*
Balls bowled2144872
Wickets 15
Bowling average 128.0061.00
5 wickets in innings
10 wickets in matchn/a
Best bowling1/101/0
Catches/stumpings 53/–593/–40/–
Source: Cricinfo, 29 April 2009

Michael John Knight Smith OBE, better known as M. J. K. Smith or Mike Smith (born 30 June 1933) is an English former cricketer who was captain of Oxford University Cricket Club (1956), Warwickshire County Cricket Club (1957–67) and the England cricket team (1963–66). He was one of England's most popular cricket captains and, as he also played rugby union, Smith was England's last double international. [1] [2] [3]



Born at Westcotes, Leicester, [4] Smith was educated at Stamford School and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read geography. He was President of Vincent's Club in 1956. While at university in 1951–55 he played in the summer for Leicestershire County Cricket Club, the county of his birth. Smith came to prominence playing for Oxford University, scoring centuries in three consecutive Varsity matches against Cambridge, from 1954 to 1956. He also represented England at rugby union against Wales in 1956. [4] He remains England's last double international to date in major sports by reference to his final appearance in 1972. [4] Arthur Milton, a double international in football and cricket, is later in terms of his first appearance in a second sport, making his Test debut six weeks after Smith.[ citation needed ]

Warwickshire captain

Smith was encouraged to move to Warwickshire County Cricket Club in 1957 to take over the captaincy. In the 1950s an amateur had to captain the county and Warwickshire had no capable amateurs. Despite wearing steel-rimmed spectacles Smith was a heavy run-maker in County cricket and passed 2,000 runs a season each year from 1957 to 1962, including 3,245 runs (57.94) in 1959. Fred Trueman thought "there is probably nobody in the world who plays the off-spinner better", [5] but Smith's fragility against fast bowling meant that he could not hold down a regular place in the Test team. It was not his only failing as 'Mike is widely remembered...as a very unreliable runner between the wickets. Warwickshire tales of woe in this respect are numerous and I can remember a call between them in 1964 going something like "No A.C." – Yes, Mike" – Wait A.C." – "Damn it, Mike" – "Sorry A.C." [6] He was, however, a mantis-like close fielder who took a record 593 catches for Warwickshire and 53 catches in 50 Tests for England. His outwardly nonchalant captaincy hid a good cricketing brain and he took a rebuilt Warwickshire side to third, fourth and second place in the County Championship in 1962–64.[ citation needed ]

Early England career

Mike Smith was called up as a makeshift opener against New Zealand in 1958, making 0 and 7 on debut on his home ground at Edgbaston in the First Test. In the Second Test at Lord's he took 230 minutes to make 47 in a match where England (269) beat New Zealand (47 and 74) by an innings on a poor wicket. In the Third Test at Headingley Smith made 3 and was dropped. Recalled as a top order batsman against India in 1959 he made his maiden Test century, 100 in the Fourth Test at Old Trafford followed by 98 in the Fifth Test at the Oval. He played his first full series in the West Indies in 1959–60, making 39 in the First Test, 108 in 350 minutes in England's 256 run victory in the Second Test, taking longer to reach three figures than the notorious stonewaller Ken Barrington. Thereafter his weakness against quality fast bowling was exposed by Wes Hall and Chester Watson with innings of 12, 0, 10, 0, 23 and 20, but he recovered with 96 in the second innings of the Fifth Test, adding 197 for the seventh wicket with the wicketkeeper Jim Parks.[ citation needed ]

Smith was one of many signatories in a letter to The Times on 17 July 1958 opposing 'the policy of apartheid' in international sport and defending 'the principle of racial equality which is embodied in the Declaration of the Olympic Games'. [7] Against South Africa in 1960 he started well with 54 and 28 in the First Test and top-scoring with 99 in the Second Test, where England won by an innings on another poor wicket. This was followed by 0, 0 and 11 and the next year against Australia he was out for a duck in the First Test at Edgbaston when the part-time bowler Ken Mackay took 3 wickets in four balls and he was dropped for the rest of the summer. It was thought that Smith would do better in India and Pakistan on the MCC tour of 1961–62 and he made another 99 in the First Test against Pakistan, having come in at 21/2 and adding 192 with Ken Barrington. This stood him in good stead as he made three successive ducks against India before recovering with 73 when recalled for the Fifth Test. Despite his powerful run-making in the County Championship Smith's batting was classed as fragile and he was dropped from the England team for three years.[ citation needed ]

England captain

Smith captained England in 25 of his 50 Test match appearances, but in a period rich in batting talent he was rarely guaranteed a place. His uncertainty against fast bowling was exposed by a series of low scores in the mid 1960s, and Smith faced considerable press criticism, unusual for the time. Still, he was a good tourist and was made captain of the England tour of India in 1963–64 when Ted Dexter and Colin Cowdrey were unavailable and without England's top bowlers Brian Statham and Fred Trueman. He lost the toss five times in a row and had so many injuries and illnesses that in the Second Test at Madras Smith had to use three batsmen, two wicket-keepers and six bowlers. When Mickey Stewart was unable to play after the first day because of dysentery he seriously considered calling up the cricket journalist Henry Blofeld, but managed to survive with just 10 men. [8] Smith became the first England captain to draw all five Tests in a series (it was the third time India had done this) and was considered to have done well to avoid defeat. It was his best series with 306 runs (51.00) and when Ted Dexter retired after losing 1–0 to Bobby Simpson's Australia in 1964 Smith was made captain for England's last tour of South Africa before the Basil d'Oliveira Crisis. He won 1–0 against the talented Springboks, the last captain to defeat them in a Test series until 1996–97. It was also a personal success as he took four catches in the vital First Test and 10 in the series. He also made his third and last Test century, a top-score of 121 in England's 442 as they replied to South Africa's 501/7 in the Third Test, and finished with 257 runs (42.83). Wisden said, 'MCC have sent more powerful teams from Lord's than this one, but never one superior in terms of corporate effort on the playing pitch and harmony in the pavilion.' [9]

Back in England in 1965, Smith beat a weak New Zealand 3–0, then lost 1–0 to South Africa, but was appointed captain for the MCC tour of Australia in 1965-66 with Cowdrey as vice-captain, despite support for the Kent captain at Lord's. Although the press labelled the England team as the weakest to go to Australia, [10] their entertaining cricket won them favour with the crowds. They also made their runs faster than any other England team since the war and for once England batted faster than Australia, a refreshing contrast to other Ashes series of the era. [11] The tourists had had the best run of games of any MCC team since the war, beating Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales, drawing with Queensland, when they needed two more wickets to win, and losing to Victoria by 32 runs after an exciting run-chase. As a result, the bookies reduced the odds of their winning the Ashes from 7/2 to evens. [12] England survived the follow on in the First Test and made 558 in the Second, both drawn. At Sydney in the Third Test England rattled up 488 and won by an innings and 93 runs to give them a 1–0 lead in the series. It was Australia's biggest defeat at home for nearly 50 years, but they fought back to win the Fourth Test by an innings and retained the Ashes. Rain ruined play in New Zealand and the three Test series was drawn 0–0 despite the home team suffering at the hands of the England bowlers. On his return to England Smith was dropped after losing the First Test against the West Indies in 1966 by an innings. He was replaced by Cowdrey and retired at the end of the following season.[ citation needed ]

Captaincy style and popularity

...he strolled in with an open-necked shirt, a white linen jacket which appeared to have been slept in for a week and a carry-cot containing a slumbering junior member of the Smith dynasty. Apparently Mrs Smith had gone shopping and M.J.K. was left holding the baby. Despite an Oxford education his accent was utterly classless and between questions to which he appeared to be paying no attention whatever, he applied himself to solving the crossword in the latest Times to arrive from Britain. "Good heavens", growled one of Australia's senior cricket correspondents, "what have we here?" What we all had on that tour was the affable companionship of one of the most popular England captains ever to tour anywhere. It never occurred to him to leave the baby, let alone his wife, at home while he led the fight for the Ashes. [13]

Ian Wooldridge

Unlike his predecessors Len Hutton, Peter May and Ted Dexter Smith rode "... the side with a loose rein, believing it knew where it was going and need only an occasional tug to keep it on the right course. I think most players appreciated this and his openness as a person brought a better response on the field". [6] He thought that any bowler good enough to play for England knew what field suited him best, and generally let his men play in their own style, though this resulted in slow over rates as he did not chivvy them along. Even the truculent fast bowler John Snow "...thought he was very astute in his handling of players..." [14] and recalled "...Mike Smith adding a few words of congratulations in his thoroughly open, absent-minded-professor sort of way". [15] E.W. Swanton reported that "Smith, though outwardly unconventional and in manner casual to a degree, succeeds as a captain for the conventional reasons. He is thoughtful for his players, unselfish, does not 'fuss' them or panic, shows a grasp of the situation which they deem generally sensible, and not least gives an inspiring personal lead in the field". [16]

Later career

Smith returned to Warwickshire in 1970 and did well enough to be recalled for England for the first three Tests against Australia in 1972 before finally retiring in 1975. In recent years he has been chairman of Warwickshire County Cricket Club (1991–2003) and an ICC match referee (1991–1996).[ citation needed ]


His son Neil followed in his footsteps by captaining Warwickshire and playing, albeit only in One Day Internationals, for England. His daughter Carole is the wife of Sebastian Coe. [17]


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It was a tour which saw all sorts of perverse happenings – from an injury list that never stopped, to the dis-satisfaction with umpiring and bowlers' actions that so undermined morale. From various causes England gave below their best...

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M.J.K. Smith captained the English cricket team in Australia in 1965–66, playing as England in the 1965-66 Ashes series against the Australians and as the MCC in their other matches on the tour. The 5-Tests series ended in 1-1 draw. Although they failed to reclaim the Ashes this was not unexpected as the Australian press labelled them the weakest MCC team to arrive in Australia and the bookmakers were giving odds of 7/2 on their winning the series. These views rapidly changed as they set about winning their state matches with exciting, aggressive cricket and by the First Test the odds against them had been reduced to evens. Lindsay Hassett said "other teams from England may have been better technically but none had tried so hard to make the game as interesting as possible". Financially the tour's receipts were much lower than in 1962–63 due to the number of rain-affected games in a wet Australian summer and the general doldrums of the sixties.

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1958–59 Ashes series

The 1958–59 Ashes series consisted of five cricket Test matches, each scheduled for six days with eight ball overs. It formed part of the MCC tour of Australia in 1958–59, and the matches outside the Tests were played in the name of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The England team led by Peter May was labelled the strongest ever to leave England. It had the formidable bowling attack of Fred Trueman, Frank Tyson, Brian Statham, Peter Loader, Jim Laker and Tony Lock; the all-rounder Trevor Bailey; the outstanding wicket-keeper Godfrey Evans; and the batting of Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney, Raman Subba Row and Ted Dexter. They had won the last three Ashes series in 1953, 1954–55 and 1956, but lost the series 4–0 to Australia. It was one of the biggest upsets in Test cricket history and the biggest margin of defeat in an Ashes series since the 5–0 "whitewashing" inflicted by Warwick Armstrong's Australians in 1920–21.

The 1954–55 Ashes series between Australia and England consisted of five Test cricket matches, each of six days duration with five hours play each day and eight ball overs. It formed part of the MCC tour of Australia in 1954–55 and the English team in matches outside the Tests were styled Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). England were captained by Len Hutton, the first professional cricketer to lead an MCC tour of Australia. The Australian team under Ian Johnson were confident of victory but, despite losing the first Test by an innings, England won the series 3–1 and retained the Ashes.

The 1958-59 Australians defeated the touring England team 4-0 in the 1958–59 Ashes series. They were seen by the English press as having little chance of winning the series against the powerful England touring team. They had only one recognised great player, Neil Harvey and had lost the fast bowling combination of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller and the other veterans of Don Bradman's Invincible 1948 team. There were, however, signs of recovery to those who would see them and E.W. Swanton believed that on their home ground Australia would be a shade better than England. The best indication of the forthcoming series was the M.C.C. and Australian tours of South Africa in 1956-57 and 1957-58. South Africa had a strong team in the 1950s, stunning the cricketing world by drawing 2-2 in Australia in 1953-54, losing 3-2 in the closely fought 1955 series in England and fighting back from a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 with Peter May's England in 1956-57. In 1957-58 Ian Craig led a team labelled as the weakest to leave Australia to a 3-0 victory over the Springboks with Richie Benaud, Alan Davidson, Wally Grout, Ken Mackay, Colin McDonald, Jim Burke and Lindsay Kline all in fine form. Norm O'Neill was not taken on tour, but struck innings of 175 in three hours and 233 in four hours in successive games against Victoria and was regarded as the "New Bradman".

1962–63 Ashes series

The 1962–63 Ashes series consisted of five cricket Test matches, each of five days with six hours play each day and eight ball overs, a change as before 1960–61 Australian Test matches had been played over six days. It formed part of the MCC tour of Australia in 1962–63 and the matches outside the Tests were played in the name of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The MCC was determined to "brighten up" cricket, but the series was drawn 1–1 and Australia retained the Ashes. The MCC chose Ted Dexter to captain an England team managed by Bernard Marmaduke Fitzalan-Howard, 16th Duke of Norfolk. The Duke's presence generated considerable press interest, as did the model Mrs Dexter and the Reverend David Sheppard—the future Bishop of Liverpool—who preached in cathedrals across Australia.

The 1962-63 Australians drew 1-1 with the touring England team in the 1962-63 Ashes series. Australia had beaten England 4-0 in 1958-59 and 2-1 in 1961 and it was thought unlikely that the tourists would beat Australia on their home ground. Richie Benaud was a keen advocate of "go ahead" cricket and his attacking tactics and brilliant captaincy had won Australia five series in a row with what were seen as average teams. Ironically, now he had a better team he drew his first series and his negative play in the last two Tests tarnished his reputation, though he did retain the Ashes. This was the last Test series of Neil Harvey, Alan Davidson and Ken Mackay and Benaud himself played for only one more season. There was a feeling that this was an end of an era and commentators wondered where the new batsmen and bowlers would come from. Fears about the Australian batting proved short-lived as Bobby Simpson and Bill Lawry formed one of Australia's great opening partnerships and were supported by Peter Burge, Brian Booth, Norm O'Neill and Barry Shepherd. But they would soon be short of a decent bowling attack, which would rest on the broad shoulders of the 21-year-old fast-bowler Graham McKenzie until the emergence of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Max Walker in the 1970s.

The Marylebone Cricket Club tour of Australia in 1962–63 under the captaincy of Ted Dexter was its thirteenth since it took official control of overseas tours in 1903-1904. The touring team played as England in the 1962–63 Ashes series against Australia, but as the MCC in all other games. In all there were 27 matches; 5 Test matches, 11 other First Class matches and 11 minor matches. The batting of Ted Dexter proved to be a considerable draw and it was financially the most successful tour since 1946–47.

MCC tour of Australia in 1954–55

The Marylebone Cricket Club tour of Australia in 1954-55 under the captaincy of Len Hutton was its eleventh since it took official control of overseas tours in 1903-1904. The touring team played as England in the 1954-55 Ashes series against Australia, but as the MCC in all other games. In all there were 23 matches; 5 Test matches, 12 other First Class matches and 6 minor matches. It was the only time that a professional cricketer captained a MCC tour of Australia. It was one of the MCC's most successful tours, the Ashes being retained and the team winning five of their victories by an innings.

The Marylebone Cricket Club tour of Australia in 1958-59 under the captaincy of Peter May was its twelfth since it took official control of overseas tours in 1903-1904. The touring team played as England in the 1958–59 Ashes series against Australia, but as the MCC in all other games. In all there were 20 matches; 5 Test matches, 12 other First Class matches and 3 minor matches. It was billed as the strongest MCC team ever to tour Australia and dominated the early matches, and its heavy defeat in the Test series was seen as one of the great upsets in cricket.

The Marylebone Cricket Club tour of Australia in 1970–71 under the captaincy of Ray Illingworth was its fifteenth since it took official control of overseas tours in 1903–1904. The touring team played as England in the 1970–71 Ashes series against Australia, but as the MCC in all other games. In all there were 26 matches; 7 Test matches which they won, 2–0, 8 other First Class matches, 10 minor matches and the first One Day International in the history of cricket, which they lost.

1965–66 Ashes series

The 1965–66 Ashes series consisted of five cricket Test matches, each of five days with six hours play and eight ball overs. It formed part of the MCC tour of Australia in 1965–66 and the matches outside the Tests were played in the name of the Marylebone Cricket Club. M.J.K. Smith led the England team with the intent on regaining the Ashes lost in the 1958–59 Ashes series, but the series was drawn 1-1 and they were retained by Australia. The Australian team was captained by Bobby Simpson in three Tests, and his vice-captain Brian Booth in two Tests.

The Marylebone Cricket Club tour of Australia in 1965–66 under the captaincy of M.J.K. Smith was its fourteenth since it took official control of overseas tours in 1903-1904. The touring team played as England in the 1965–66 Ashes series against Australia, but as the MCC in all other games. In all there were 24 matches; 5 Test matches, 10 other first-class matches and 9 minor matches. The strength of the team's batting and the weakness of its bowling is shown by having 10 batsmen averaging over 40, but only one bowler under 30, the part-time leg-spinner Ken Barrington. The MCC team manager Billy Griffith encouraged the naturally cautious Smith to make sporting declarations and make run-chases in the tour matches, though this became less prevalent towards the end.

The Marylebone Cricket Club tour of Australia in 1974-75 under the captaincy of Mike Denness was its sixteenth since it took official control of overseas tours in 1903-1904. The touring team played as England in the 1974–75 Ashes series against Australia, but as the MCC in all other games. In all there were 24 matches; 6 Test matches, 9 other First Class matches, a One Day International, which they won, another one-day game, which they lost, and 8 minor matches.


  1. p23, Kelly
  2. p230, Colin Cowdrey, SMITH, Michael John Knight, OBE, E.W. Swanton (ed), Barclays World of Cricket, Collins Willow, 1986
  3. pp461-462 A.C. Smith, Warwickshire, E.W. Swanton (ed), Barclays World of Cricket, Collins Willow, 1986
  4. 1 2 3 Bateman, Colin (1993). If The Cap Fits. Tony Williams Publications. pp.  150–151. ISBN   1-869833-21-X.
  5. p52, Freddie Trueman, Cricket, Pelham Books, 1963
  6. 1 2 p33, Snow
  7. Brown and Hogsbjerg, Apartheid is not a game, 16
  8. p145, Titmus
  9. Basil Easterbrook, 'MCC Team in South Africa, 1964–65', Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1966, p.792.
  10. p138, Swanton
  11. p132, Swanton
  12. p134, Swanton
  13. p20, Ian Wooldridge, What have we here? The eccentric 'Pom', Benson and Hedges Test Series Official Book 1986–87 The Clashes for the Ashes, Playbill Sport Publication, 1986
  14. p78, Snow
  15. p32, Snow
  16. p139, Swanton
  17. "Sebastian Coe: Lord of the rings" The Independent 21 July 2012
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Ted Dexter
Ted Dexter
English national cricket captain
Succeeded by
Ted Dexter
Colin Cowdrey