WAB Smith's quickfire century

William AB Smith (WABS) may have had a brief career with Greenock but in his short time with the Club he certainly left his mark. Born in July 1902, he played a couple of matches for the 1st XI in 1922 and 1923 but it was 1924 before he claimed a regular place in the team.

His aggressive style of play soon endeared him to the Greenock spectators. His fierce hitting and fiery pace bowling made him a player to be reckoned with and while he did not always come off, when he did so, the results were often spectacular. As an example, he was man of the match when Greenock won the Rowan Cup for the first time in 1925, his opening burst reducing Uddingston to 21 for 5 from which they never recovered.

International recognition

In 1927 he earned his one and only cap for Scotland when he was selected for the annual match against Ireland, played in Dublin. He did not enjoy much success, scoring 1 and 0 and taking 0 for 42 in the Irish first innings and 1 for 29 in the second. The match finished in a draw with John Kerr the Scottish hero, scoring 67 and 136. Prior to this match he played for a West of Scotland select team against the 1926 Australians, taking 3 for 104 and scoring 4 and 9.

Like many of his age, circumstances in the UK forced him to look abroad for his future and early in 1928 he left Greenock to take up a post as chief engineer on a rubber estate in Carey Island in the Federated Malay States. It seemed that would be the end of his playing career but in 1933 he returned to Greenock on leave and played the whole of that summer before returning to his job.

Greenock make stumbling start

On July 1st of that year, Greenock travelled to Paisley to play Ferguslie at Meikleriggs. These two teams only met once a season, a situation which the League Committee surprisingly allowed to continue until 1957.

Greenock batted first but did not make the best of starts, losing their professional Hollingdale for a duck in the second over. His successor Williamson enjoyed something of a charmed life on a pitch which the Greenock Telegraph described as being "very hard ... the ball was jumping off the pitch very awkwardly." With the total on 28, Williamson was caught behind which brought Smith to the crease and the whole complexion of the game changed.

Smith changes complexion of the game

Smith went for the bowling from the very start. He took 20 off an over from Megson and 15 from one from Gibson and reached his half-century in under thirty minutes. John Kerr at the other end just played away quietly, giving Smith his head.

Greenock's total reached 100 in exactly one hour's play. All bowlers were treated alike by Smith, although he did enjoy two lifes, being dropped on 29 by DB Gibson and on 66 by Hopwood. When the score reached 165 with Smith on 96, Megson was brought back and could have had Smith out first ball but D Gibson dropped a difficult chance. In the same over, Smith drove Megson to the boundary to bring up his century before being stumped off the very next ball.

His innings had lasted around fifty minutes and contained 16 fours and 2 sixes, his partnership with Kerr, which he completely dominated, producing 143 runs. CD Stuart, a noted player and writer on the game, noted in the Club's centenary booklet that "Of Smith it is difficult to say whether he was better with the bat or with the ball. I saw him play a century innings against  Ferguslie, and better driving would be hard to imagine."

Ferguslie set daunting target

Robert Hodge, who was another batsman who liked to play his shots, now joined Kerr and the two of them continued to put the Ferguslie attack to the sword. In hindsight, Greenock should probably have declared when Hodge was dismissed for 34 with the score on 223 but they opted to continue batting. The pace of scoring slackened off and it was only when the skipper, Norman Walker, was bowled without scoring, that he applied the closure. John Kerr was left unbeaten on 68, having batted throughout the innings. He kept his pads on to keep wicket in the second innings, a demonstration of his fitness at the age of 48.

Not satisfied with his batting heroics, Smith opened the bowling for Greenock and quickly removed Hopwood for 9. At the other end, Hodge claimed two leg before decisions to dismiss Gardner and the Ferguslie professional, Creber. When Hollingdale took three wickets in four balls, getting rid of Ramsden, DB Gibson and Stewart, the momentum was clearly with Greenock. Walker got the benefit of another leg before decision to dismiss Raeside and Ferguslie were in dire straits on 71 for 7 with an hour left to play.

Greenock unable to capture last wicket

The eighth wicket fell at 89, D Gibson being bowled by Walker, but WB Gibson and Halliday came together for a productive partnership and it was only when Douglas Adam was introduced into the attack that a breakthrough was achieved, Halliday being bowled for a spirited 20 with the score on 122. The veteran Bill Megson was last man in, someone who had given immense service to Ferguslie since 1902 when he was employed as their professional. He had already taken 5 for 78 in Greenock's innings and he now conspired with Gibson to keep Greenock at bay.

Despite numerous bowling changes, Greenock were unable to capture the final wicket and Ferguslie were rewarded for their dogged resistance with a merited draw. It was unfortunate that Smith's outstanding century did not result in a positive result for Greenock.

Second XIs in exciting tie

At the same time that this game was playing out, the second XIs of both clubs met at Glenpark. Ferguslie scored 171 and when Greenock were 96 for 8, defeat beckoned. But Jimmy Sinclair and CE Brown took the score up to 152 before Sinclair fell for 49. Brown kept going and brought the scores level at whcih point he was dismissed for 36, leaving the game tied.

1933 was not a great season for Greenock, the team finishing sixth in the Union, one place ahead of Ferguslie, and exiting the Rowan Cup in the second round but for those who witnessed it, Smith's century would be a lasting memory of that season.

Smith's sudden death

Smith returned again on leave to Greenock in 1937 and was able to play for the second half of that season, although it became evident that his powers had waned, particularly his bowling which now lacked penetration. His last appearance for the team was on 11th September at Kirkstyle against Kilmarnock, making just 8 in a low-key end to his career, before leaving Greenock for the last time in October.

Club members and supporters alike were stunned when they learnt that he had died suddenly on 21st December at the untimely age of 35, after just six weeks back at work at the rubber plant. It is not known what was the cause of his death.

During his brief career with Greenock William Smith scored 1730 runs and took 268 wickets but it was the manner of his play more than these statistics that is his legacy.


John Kerr + not out 68
Hollingdale   b Megson 0
PJF Williamson c Halliday b Megson 14
WAB Smith st Halliday b Megson 101
RS Hodge c Hopwood b Megson 34
W Hope c D Gibson b Megson 7
WN Walker *   b Stewart 0
TC Riddell      
TH McCrea      
GH Tough      
GD Adam      
Extras     12
TOTAL    47.2 overs 236 for 6
Bowler O M R W  
Creber 15 3 32 0    
W Megson 19 4 78 5  
W Stewart 7.2 2 42 1  
D Gibson 2 0 26 0  
J Hopwood 2 0 22 0  
RB Gardner 2 0 24 0  
RB Gardner lbw b Hodge 15
J Hopwood   b Smith 9
Creber lbw b Hodge 1
FW Ramsden c Smith b Hollingdale 20
GWM Raeside lbw b Walker 22
DB Gibson * lbw b Hollingdale 0
W Stewart   b Hollingdale 0
WB Gibson not out 26
D Gibson   b Walker 11
JE Halliday +   b GD Adam 20
W Megson not out 14
Extras     8
TOTAL     55 overs 146 for 9
Bowler O M R W  
WAB Smith 10 3 30 1    
RS Hodge 12 2 29 2  
Hollingdale 11 3 10 3  
GH Tough 7 2 24 0  
WN Walker 9 0 40 2  
GD Adam 4 2 3 1  
TH McCrea 1 2 0