Forty Funniest Cricketers of All Time
Outstanding Comic Performance by a Cricketer in a Leading Role (2019) - Steve Smith, for The Ashes
Did we forget? Is that what happened?
I don’t think we did. We all saw Steve Smith before his suspension, and we all knew he was, uh, somewhat odd. But that’s all he was. A slightly peculiar batter who played really rather odd shots in between his elaborate leaves, but a man who mostly just scored a drearily consistent and enormous number of runs.
However, twelve months away to work on his comedy cricket game changed everything. It meant that Steven Peter Devereux Smith returned to give one of the all-time great comic performances during the 2019 Ashes.
It began with the leaves. In between all the run-scoring of the first couple of Tests (and there was an awful lot of run-scoring in those Tests), Smith left the ball in increasingly eccentric ways. His first three Ashes innings contained more wacky leaves than a marijuana plantation.
Eventually, one began to realise that the primary reason Smith wasn’t getting out was so that he could showcase his vast array of nonsense non-shots.
Eventually one of the leaves brought Smith undone, when he was struck on the head by Jofra Archer. This was by far the least amusing thing he did during the Ashes. (It did, however, allow the Most Promising Newcomer in the Field of Comedy Cricket for 2018, Marnus Labuschagne, to add yet another string to his increasingly twine-riddled comic bow by becoming the first concussion substitute in Test match history. And then, almost immediately, Australia’s second best batter.)
But before Marnus took over, Smith was dismissed. The LBW that took his wicket was so plumb that Smith walked. But Smith was also so important to the team that he reviewed the decision. A truly astonishing moment.
Just when you think DRS comedy was well and truly mined by King Watto during his peerless comedy career, along comes Smith with the walking review. Such comic innovation from a man suffering heavily from concussion was truly awe-inspiring.
When Smith returned after an uneventful Third Test in Headingley, he somehow got even sillier. Here’s what he did in the last two Tests
- he hit a beach ball for four runs
- he was dismissed by Jack Leach, only to discover that Leach had inexplicably overstepped, allowing Smith to be undismissed and score an Ashes-retaining double century
- he spotted a van outside the ground and demanded its windows be covered by a towel before he would continue batting
- he brought up a fifty with a kind of jumping lunge shot
- he took a juggling catch at slip off Joe Denly
- he was dismissed by Joe Root
- he wore glasses during the Ashes-retaining celebrations, making fun of Leach and then claimed it was actually Chris Rogers who was the target of his japery
- he was tricked into diving for his crease by a Jonny Bairstow piece of fake fielding
- he got the flu
Has there ever been a finer sustained burst of comedy cricket?
Almost certainly. But not in 2019. And especially not when you consider Smith’s delightful little post-credits sequence where he’s spent every Test series since the Ashes barely making any runs. Just to make England feel as worthless as possible.
It’s good, funny stuff, and that’s why the award for Outstanding Comic Performance by a Cricketer in a Leading Role for 2019 goes to Steve Smith.