Jamie Smith’s 155 formed the backbone of another dominant win for Division One table-toppers Surrey. Does a first England Test call-up beckon?

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Five matches into the 2024 summer and Surrey look as sure a bet as any for the title. Sitting pretty at the top of the table their squad depth is formidable. Against Warwickshire last week they were able to field an international-class attack even while missing the likes of Gus Atkinson, Jamie Overton and England Lions seamer Tom Lawes. Their top six boasts six England internationals, including five current or recent Test players. The standout against Warwickshire, however, was the member of the top six with just two ODI caps to his name, Jamie Smith.

Smith’s hundred against Warwickshire was outstanding, one that several seasoned onlookers at the Kia Oval rated as among the best they’ve seen on the ground in recent memory. It was a performance that Smith has threatened to pull off for some time. 

Smith averages 43 against the red ball since the start of 2022. Of players with more than 1,000 Division One runs in that time period, only Ollie Pope both averages more and scores quicker than Smith. He went through the gears against Warwickshire, accelerating as he approached his century, slowing down around a lower middle order collapse, before then showing off his range of shots as he put on 115 for the ninth wicket with Sean Abbott.

There is an eagerness to dominate in Smith’s batting. He is quick to latch onto anything short and is capable of dismissing decent deliveries to the fence. There’s also a quirky aesthetic. As he lines up towards the bowler, Smith turns his left shoulder to ever so slightly towards mid-off and places his bat on the ground with unusually low hands, before re-adjusting back to a more conventional set-up when the ball is released. By this time his weight is already leaning forward, the earliest sign of his aggressive intent. 

He regularly walks at seamers, a demonstration that he has more time than most, and he has a power to match that desire to be on the front foot. In fact, that power is a recent addition to his game, having sought to “make some physical gains” during a winter that saw him prioritise his white-ball development, following conversations with England’s then performance director Mo Bobat. 

He uses his height to his advantage, and stylistically isn’t too dissimilar to the likes of Zak Crawley and Harry Brook. The players destined to play at a higher level generally score quickly domestically. Even Jonathan Trott in 2009 struck at 60 while averaging 80 for Warwickshire. An ability to move games forward is particularly valued by the current England regime – Smith strikes at 91 in so far in 2024. 

Does a Test call-up beckon this summer? It’s not a given, especially considering the unusually settled nature of the current England top six. Barring injury, Ben Duckett and Crawley will open with Pope at three, Root at four (where Smith bats for Surrey), Brook at five and Stokes at six. Following Ben Foakes’ and Jonny Bairstow’s relatively quiet tours of India, there is potentially a spot open with the gloves. But Smith is only an occasional gloveman at Surrey, and Bairstow’s decent overall 2023 Ashes campaign is unlikely to prompt a change in direction. And besides, competition for places behind the sticks is fierce even beyond Foakes and Bairstow. There is also Phil Salt – whose recent first-class record is excellent – and Durham’s Ollie Robinson, who has a practically identical set of 2024 numbers to Smith and is his county’s regular keeper. 

Even if a spot in the starting XI will be hard to win in the near future, Smith deserves to be considered England’s next man in. Dan Lawrence, another member of that fabled Surrey top six, currently holds that status, but this is the third summer in a row Smith has out-scored his new teammate.

While there are other contenders – Josh Bohannon and Sam Hain to name a couple  – none marries consistency, style and speed of scoring quite like Smith.

A Test debut will surely come at some point though you can’t always telegraph how a first Test opportunity will present itself. In 2022, Brook’s Test debut only came due to Jonny Bairstow picking up a serious injury. Once afforded that first chance, Brook’s run-scoring was so substantial that when Bairstow regained fitness, Brook was the unmovable presence at No.5, not Bairstow. Brook was 23 when that opportunity came, the same age that Smith is now. And with the form that Smith is in, you wouldn’t bet against Smith grasping onto a first opportunity in a similar manner to how Brook did two years ago should an opportunity present itself this summer.