8,9 and 10 May 1957
Don Smith’s Whirlwind Innings
1957 was Don Smith’s annus mirabilis and the centre piece of that season was his 166 against Gloucestershire. Over the years there have been a number of whirlwind innings played at Hove that stand out, including Gilbert Jessop in 1903, Ted Alletson 1911 and Hugh Bartlett in 1938 and Don’s innings against Gloucestershire in the first match of the season at Hove surely ranks among them.
Sussex set 267 to win in 195 minutes
The visitors took the first innings and made a sound 322, with most of the top order getting in and Derek Hawkin’s maiden century earning him a cap. When it came to Sussex’s turn, they found run making difficult against the accurate slow-bowling of Sam Cook and ‘Bomber’ Wells. Leslie Lenham, aged twenty, and playing only his second game for the County, was unfortunate not to emulate Hawkins with his maiden century but on 95 he played the ball onto his foot from where it went into the hands of short-leg. With a first innings lead of 43, Gloucestershire batted confidently in their second innings, and they declared just after lunch on the third day, setting Sussex 267 to win in just 195 minutes.
After eighty minutes, Don Smith and Les Lenham had made 81 together, but were so far behind the clock that a victory seemed beyond Sussex. In John Marshall’s words, ‘Don Smith then transformed the game with an innings of electrifying brilliance.’ In 58 balls after tea Sussex scored 82 runs and Smith made 74 of them – in 27 minutes. He hit eight sixes and four fours off the 34 balls he received and went from 48 to 104 in 19 minutes while 28 balls were being bowled. Six of his sixes came during this spell.
A bombardment on the pavilion
The first wicket fell at 163 when Les Lenham was run out for 34, and Smith continued to attack the bowling with a ferocity that few of the spectators had seen before on the County ground. The bombardment was concentrated on the pavilion, where the boundary was its shortest, and where most of the sixes landed. One six struck a Mr Ernest Williams of Barrington Rd, Worthing on the jaw causing him to be taken to hospital.
When Smith was out lbw for 166, off the bowling of Lambert, he had hit nine sixes and eleven fours out of 253 in 175 minutes. Jim |Parks then steered Sussex to victory with just eight minutes to spare.
While it is true that Alletson hit 189 in 90 minutes and Jessop hit a ball over the old South Stand, Smith’s innings was so ferocious that it must surely rank among the hardest-hit hundreds that have been seen at Hove. A month later, he scored an unbeaten 147 against the touring West Indies and was then selected for three of the Test matches. Click here for an article on Don Smith’s career