Wish I'd Done That

Paul Harris: 'If I had to steal one of Graeme Smith's hundreds, it would be that one'

The South Africa spinner on a great fourth-innings fighter's knock he wishes he'd played

As told to Firdose Moonda  |  

Everyone wants a piece of Smith after he sealed South Africa's first win in England since 1965

Everyone wants a piece of Smith after he sealed South Africa's first win in England since 1965 © Getty Images

Graeme Smith: 154 not out vs England, Birmingham, 2008

England had a pretty good side. They had beaten the Aussies in the Ashes at home, they had Flintoff and KP, and Michael Vaughan was their captain. Not many people gave us a chance.

One of the reasons why I love that performance is because we were in a bit of trouble. And the other reason is that I played cricket there at Edgbaston, for Warwickshire. I had taken a Kolpak deal and come back and that performance reaffirmed that I made the right decision.

That was the best innings I'd ever seen. We were all panicking and it was nerve-wracking because chasing down a score to win a Test series in England doesn't happen very often, so we were a bit stressed out, but Graeme was in the zone. He was so calm and collected. And the ball was doing quite a bit. It was spinning out the rough from Monty Panesar, and Flintoff was bowling thunderbolts. Graeme just kept hitting to the leg side. He just kept doing it and kept doing it and kept doing it.

I watched it from the change room and I wasn't allowed to move. Myself, Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers were all sitting in the same position, watching it on TV. The problem with the television is that it's always three or four seconds behind, so if there was a large roar, we'd know there was a wicket and we would get tense again, and if it was quiet, we would just keep sitting. I wasn't allowed to leave that spot until there were about three or four runs to win. And I was next in to bat, so there was also that nervous energy.

Morne [Morkel] was supposed to be next in but the problem was that he is the most average player of spin bowling in the history of Test cricket, and I tend to play the spinners better than I play the seamers. So Mickey Arthur [the coach] came and said I must pad up. Morne tried to act like he wasn't upset and he was actually quite relieved to take the pads off. Fortunately, I didn't have to go in.

I wouldn't want to be an opening batsman but maybe a No. 4 or No. 5. It's easier on the body, and if I could choose to come back as somebody, I probably wouldn't come back as Graeme. (Sorry Smithy!) I'd come back as AB or Virat Kohli or Kevin Pietersen or someone that was quite flamboyant and got a few headlines - because I didn't get too many when I was playing. But I still wish I had played that knock. I think a lot of us would have been happy to play it. If I had to steal one of Graeme's hundreds, I would steal that one.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent