When the name of the left-arm swing bowler Greg Smith is mentioned, Fanie de Villiers, former legendary fast bowler of South Africa, becomes very excited, lights up and sings his praises.
“He was a very classy and astute fast bowler who had the ability to swing the ball through the air into the right-handed batsman,” said de Villiers.
“At his best he was sensational. He should have represented South Africa ahead of one or two other bowlers.”
Smith, who played for Northerns and Nottinghamshire in 147 matches and captured 457 wickets, got injured at crucial times which hampered his progress.
He made his Northerns debut against Transvaal in 1993/1994 and accounted for the South African player Jimmy Cook early on.
In the four-day season in 1994/1995, he claimed 25 wickets at an average 30.28, but those figures don’t do justice to his excellence, as he was surrounded by other top-bowers like Steven Elworthy and Fanie de Villiers who were all potent fast bowlers and wicket-takers.
During that same season, Smith was a member of the first-ever National Academy coached by Clive Rice.
“I remember in the final match of the season, a Standard Bank-clash against Griqualand-West, I took 5-11, but at the end, I felt something in my groin,” recalled Smith.
“I was subsequently selected for the SA ‘A’ tour of England and played, although I was not 100 %. It is a shame, because other players, like Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener, who had good tours, kicked on from there.
“I did not have a good tour, and when I returned, they did a scan and detected a stress-fracture. It was unfortunate,”
When he was selected for South Africa ‘A’ again, Lady Luck did not smile on him, and due to injuries to both hands, he could not join his colleagues on a tour of Sri Lanka.
Smith, at his best, was a sight to behold, and he could remove the best batsmen in the world. On an Australian tour to South Africa, they played against Northerns. Smith found the gap between bat and pad of the world-class opener Michael Slater and bowled him neck and crop.
Smith remembers vividly how he was part of two Standard Bank title winning campaigns. One was under Steve Medlycott and the other under Peter Kirsten’s coaching.
Northerns also reached the final of the four-day competition against Natal. It ended in a stale-mate, but because Natal was at the summit of the points table, they walked away with the spoils.
Smith plied his trade for Northerns until 2003 and then joined Nottinghamshire, where he had many fine memories.
As a left-arm swing bowler, he followed in the footsteps of the legendary Brett Schultz and watched other exponents of the art of swing bowling like Wasim Akram and Charl Willoughby closely, a factor that contributed to his excellence for Northerns.
Currently, he is the director of cricket at St. Albans College and a cricketing scout for Northerns.