Windies 289 & 415/6 dec England 77 & 246
Windies win by 381 runs. Roston Chase picked up 8 wickets in the 2nd innings.
Windies 289 & 415/6 dec England 77 & 246
Windies win by 381 runs. Roston Chase picked up 8 wickets in the 2nd innings.
I wonder is Jason Holder the tallest man ever to score a test double century. 6 foot 7.5.
England 34-2 after 15 overs.
78/5. Bairstow departs second ball after lunch.
93/6. After getting bowled out first innings in the 1st test for 77, this is a much more resolute batting effort from England.
Lady pundit on the BBC was actually very good, knowledgeable, and I’m pleased to say was an excellent addition.
Dunno. Dark haired lass.
England 187 Windies 161/4.
Three quick wickets for England. It’s a tricky pitch. Wouldn’t like to be batting last on it chasing a challenging total.
England are now leading by 4 in Antigua.
England 187 & 123/8 Windies 306
England all out for 132. Windies target of 14 to win the test and the Wisden Series.
Super catch there by Stuart Broad. England well on top here.
Fifer for Mark Wood. England lead by 123 after the 1st innings. 20 overs left tonight.
Plenty of time for Jennings to finish his test career tonight.
Sri Lanka backing up their epic 1 wicket win in the 1st test in Durban on the opening morning of the 2nd test in Port Elizabeth. South Africa 19/3 after 8 overs.
Sri Lanka wrap up an 8th wicket win in Port Elizabeth for a 2-0 series win. First Asian team to win a test series in South Africa. The first test in Durban, one of the all time great tests. Incredible the similarities between Kusal Perera’s match winning knock of 153 not out for a 1 wicket win in Durban and Brian Lara’s match winning knock of 153 not out for a 1 wicket win against Australia at Kensington Oval, 20 years ago.
Fearless against the West Indies pace attack, the former England batsman says playing was ‘easy’ but retirement left him drinking heavily and close to taking his own life.
I was sitting on the beach in Perth, with the Rendezvous hotel behind me, and I thought: ‘How am I going to end my life?’ Robin Smith says calmly. The former England Test batsman, who was renowned for his [bravery against brutal fast bowling between 1988 and 1996, shows a deeper courage as he relives the darkest days of his life since he retired from cricket and moved to Australia.
On a dreary summer afternoon in London, Smith makes it feel as if we are on an empty beach on a winter evening in Perth. I can feel the pain that surged through him in 2013 as he drained a bottle of vodka. “I knew I should stop drinking,” he admits, “but it gave me an escape where I didn’t feel so guilty. Everything seemed slightly rosier because of that injection of vodka through my veins.”
Smith has been sober for a long time but, still, it is not easy returning to the darkness. “I knew I was going to commit suicide but I didn’t know exactly what day it would be and how I was going to do it. I always felt I didn’t have the guts to buy a gun. I wouldn’t have known where to get a gun and shoot myself. But I knew I would be able to have some medication, two bottles of vodka and a cigarette before I jumped off the top of the building. I had that in me.”
We were both schoolboys in South Africa in the late 1970s. I lived near Johannesburg and Smith in Durban. Even then, and being a few years older than him, I had heard of Smith. The cricket I played was nowhere near his standard but I heard breathless tales of Smith the teenage prodigy. From six o’clock every summer morning, he faced balls flying at speed from a bowling machine fed by his father in their back garden. Barry Richards and Mike Procter, two great South Africa cricketers who lost their best years in the Test game to the justified sports boycott against apartheid, sometimes practised with Smith in his garden. He was that gifted.
Now, the 55-year-old Smith has written a profoundly moving book with the Guardian’s Rob Smyth. It is called [The Judge] which is the nickname Smith was given in Durban as a schoolboy when his frizzy hair, now as grey as mine, resembled a judge’s wig. Smith acknowledges he has been fortunate to find a gifted writer as knowledgable and empathetic as his near namesake. Smyth is an expert on the bludgeoning brilliance of Smith at his best, in a struggling England team who won only 14 of 62 Tests he played, but the ghostwriter has allowed the vulnerable man inside the swaggering cricketer to express his doubts in an ultimately uplifting way.
Smith still relives some harrowing memories. “When my life fell apart, my business too, one of the big mistakes I made was collecting my daughter from school having drunk far too much. She understood I was drunk because I went over a kerb and she asked to get out the car. That broke my heart. It destroyed me, knowing I did wrong. A parent is there to keep their children safe, and I did the total opposite.”
When he was stopped by the police later that day they made him retake a breathalyser test because they thought their machine was faulty. Smith had a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.4. Most people are unconscious if the reading is 0.3, in a coma at 0.4 and dead at 0.5.
“When I was in the bowels of depression, I’d take half a bottle to the beach and not see any way out. I drank vodka straight from the bottle. There were no half measures. The point of taking my life was getting close until my son saw me curled up in my apartment. He said how much I was still loved. Then my brother, Chris, stepped in. I stayed at their place for nine months. My drinking got slightly better but it was only ever going to be for a short time. I moved to another apartment and fell again because I was sad and guilty.”
Smith had resolved not to jump out of a hotel window, for the sake of his children, but his family despaired as he kept drinking. He needed the help of his new partner, Karin, who sits alongside him during this interview and sometimes reaches out to hold his hand. “I saw a good man with a bad problem,” she says.
Slowly, amid the occasional relapse, Smith sobered up. Karin convinced him to trust Smyth and they agreed to tell a story where Smith’s bold cricket career is balanced by his frailties in retirement. As Smith and his partner returned to the Rendezvous hotel last year to discuss his suicidal moods, they witnessed a tragedy.
“Karin went for a shower,” Smith says. “I took a coffee on to the balcony. That’s when it happened.”
Smith saw a body hurtling past and “I heard that terrible smash. I shouted to Karin, jumped over the railing and went down. This woman had wedged herself in a drain. She was still breathing and her eyes were open and looking at us. I held her hand, and Karin held her other hand, as we waited for the paramedics. We never found out where she came from, because they don’t give out that information. I wanted to let her family know we were with her in her last moments. As we held her hand, we saw blood trickle out of her mouth, and then it was over. I just said: ‘Fuck.’”
Could it have been him crumpled in the drain? “Yes. I was so, so close. You tell yourself: ‘I’m a bloody hindrance. I’m causing too much pain, too much embarrassment.’ I thought the best thing was to end it.”
Smith’s depression began soon after his contract with Hampshire, whom he had joined 21 years previously, was not extended in 2003. The day before his 40th birthday he felt betrayed and, without the routine of cricket, Smith was adrift. His identity fractured.
“There’s always been two sides to my character. One would be Robin Smith, very loyal, gentle, kind, not having confidence even when someone sees you as a big, powerful bloke. When I got to England I had to try to gather more arrogance, because I did not believe in myself.”
The Judge, dispatching ferocious fast bowling to the boundary, took over – merging with the hard-drinking Judgie who loved socialising with Ian Botham, Allan Lamb, Viv Richards, Shane Warne and other great players who all said Smith was the nicest man in cricket. Yet Smith hid his true, vulnerable self.
“I’ve found a happy medium now,” he says, “particularly as writing the book has been very cathartic. I bared my soul to the world.”
The great documentary about the dominant West Indies team, features Smith facing some chilling fast bowling. He weaves and leaps out of the way but still gets hit by a sickening blow that fractures his cheekbone. “The challenge of the West Indies paled into insignificance compared to the challenges I faced after my cricketing days. I look back and cricket was quite easy.”
He had the most ferocious square cut in the game. Mike Selvey, the Guardian’s former cricket correspondent who played for England, is quoted on the back of the book: “Should I ever be condemned to beheading, I would like Robin Smith to be the swordsman.” For Michael Vaughan, “The Judge – or ‘My Hero’ as I knew him – had the aura, personality and swagger that all of us young players wanted. I spent hours trying to master his signature square cut.”
Smith relished taking on the world’s most menacing quicks. “I loved it. However, I shudder now when I see guys getting smacked in the grill. I think: ‘How on earth did I bat for  years professionally?’ But I was far more nervous facing Shane Warne.”
Smith coped with Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop but “Sylvester Clarke was always the most sinister. Any cricketer of my generation will say he was the most dangerous. Like Andy Roberts, he actually wanted to hit you. If they couldn’t get you out they’ll knock you out. They wouldn’t think twice about seeing you carried off on a stretcher. I used to go to the bar afterwards and buy Sylvester lots of drink, hoping he would go easy on me. The next day he still wanted to hurt me. But I never felt fear. Even Waqar Younis, who hated me and often said: ‘I’m going to fucking kill you’ could not scare me.”
In his fearless pomp, while scoring some magnificent Test hundreds that left him with a batting average of 43.67, The Judge was insecure away from the crease. When he asked Keith Fletcher, his England coach, if he would consider bringing in a sports psychologist, Smith says he was told: “Anyone who needs a fucking psychiatrist shouldn’t be fucking playing for England.”
Smith, who is relieved that mental health in sport is discussed more openly today, shakes his head. “For [Fletcher] not to know the difference between a sports psychologist and a psychiatrist was sad. Loads of coaches didn’t have a clue. They just said: ‘Man up and be tough.’ But [depression] happens to many of us and you should get help before you fall too deeply into that hole. You have to accept it’s going to be very humbling. People will know how fragile you are.”
If he had opened up to Botham and Lamb would his great drinking buddies have been equipped to help him? “That’s an interesting question because, again, they probably wouldn’t understand. I get on so very well with them and I’m sure they would have tried to help in some way. But I don’t think they understand how it feels being unconfident, shy and reserved.”
Smith now enjoys coaching young players in Perth. “I’ve got that love back. I was disillusioned watching cricket, maybe depressed, because I still hadn’t got over the need to continue playing, but I love coaching. Sometimes I get the bat and show them how to play a couple of shots. I’m not being arrogant but I still play a beautiful cover drive.”
He smiles and speaks with raw honesty. “When I was a cricketer I drank socially, because I was a party animal. I don’t think I was an alcoholic then. But when the wheels fell off, for seven years, I would have been an alcoholic. I don’t know whether I’ll remain an alcoholic the rest of my life. If I can keep clean for a few years maybe I can be disciplined enough to drink in moderation.”
After conquering so many demons is he happy now? “I am very happy. There is lots more I can do to improve but I’m moving in the right direction. I have the discipline these days to know what’s right and wrong – but we can always try to be nicer and be the very best we can.”