Tom Smith: A Lancashire Thank you
Tom Smith was a favourite amongst Lancashire supporters, throughout his career at the club he had become one of the best home grown players the club had to offer and contributed with both bat and ball. Playing in all three formats of the game, Smith opened the batting in the T20 blast format but featured in a strong middle order in the longer, four day format of the game.
His excellent form in 2014, averaging 45.84 from 773 runs with the bat and 54 wickets for an average of 20 with the ball (statistics courtesy of Manchester Evening News), was richly rewarded as he was recognised as Lancashire’s best player at the end of season awards before being named as captain for the 2015 campaign. Unfortunately Smith would only captain Lancashire’s opening game against Derbyshire before succumbing to an injury which would eventually end his career.
I had the pleasure of watching Smith on a number of occasions as a Lancashire season ticket holder. He performed well in all formats of the game in 2014 but his excellent and often aggressive contributions at the top of the batting order in the T20 Blast provided me with one particular highlight. During the Red Rose encounter between Lancashire and Yorkshire on the 6th June 2014, Smith partnered Alex Davies then Karl Brown at the top of the order but his scoring rate outpaced both his batting partners racing to 55 off just 28 deliveries. Although his innings was remembered for the Lyth-Finch wonder catch which eventually brought his contribution to an end, his innings in itself brought the game alive with eight fours and a six. One of several contributions in the T20 Blast that season, Smith became a reliable yet exciting player to watch as Lancashire reached the final, only to lose to the Birmingham Bears playing on their home ground. He was equally impressive in the four day game, having his best season at the club despite Lancashire’s poor form which would eventually result in relegation from the first division. No matter how good his innings, you could always sense the frustration when Smith was dismissed, an indication of his determination and commitment to the team.
It was particularly sad to see Tom Smith’s demise after his stellar performance during the 2014 season. After most of the 2015 season through injury, Smith made a brief return to action in the 2016 season before calling an end to his career to preserve his long term health. His vice-captain, Steven Croft has now been promoted to captain and continues to lead Lancashire in all formats of the game.
On the 25th January 2017, Lancashire announced Smith’s retirement from all forms of the game. His retirement aged just 31 is one of a number of early retirements from the game due to injury in recent years. However, a recent statement from the club suggested that Smith would be utilised in a youth development role for future cricketing stars. In 2014 Kyle Hogg retired due to a similarly debilitating back injury. Hogg was, of course, a fast bowler rather than all-rounder for Lancashire, however his career came to a premature end after he sustained a serious back injury just one season after being named as Lancashire’s best player. An unfortunate parallel for two of Lancashire’s recent heroes.