Published: 12th September, 2018
The man with elastic hands – that was how his Surrey team-mates will remember Bill Smith, who died on Sunday aged 80, following a long illness.
The left-hander, who opened or batted high in the order, made 144 first-class appearances for the county between 1961 – making his debut against Oxford University – and 1970. In that time he scored 5,042 runs at an average of 22, which included 23 half-centuries and two hundreds. There were also 22 List A matches, in the early days of limited overs cricket.
Smith, born in Salisbury, returned to play for Wiltshire over the next six seasons with four appearances for Minor Counties South in 1972, the inaugural summer off the Benson & Hedges Cup.
What added greatly to Smith’s value was his fielding, taking 51 catches. Roger Harman, his great friend and colleague, said: “He was a brilliant cover point and a magnificent fielder. We used to say that he had elastic hands, he was that good.”
Cricketers were poorly paid in the 1960s and employed only for the summer months, so another skill was essential and Smith’s trade as a carpenter-joiner proved essential for him to make a living and support his family. He also coached at Dulwich College.
His earliest cricket days, before becoming a professional, were at Dorking CC – his father was head gardener at Polesden Lacey and they were one of the nearest clubs. Later he moved on to Worcester Park, where he was also heavily involved in coaching.
His son Andy emerged through the club and went on to play for Surrey in the mid-1990s. He is now the cricket operations manager for the ECB.
The memories and friendships Bill Smith made through cricket – specifically those at Surrey and the Kia Oval – fortified him greatly when his health was declining. He leaves his wife Gwen and daughter Alison as well as Andy.