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A FORMER Devon cricketer who saved his best bowling performance until his final match for his adopted county has died aged 90.

Roy Smith, whose cricket career began with North Devon shortly after World War Two, was talent spotted by Somerset after taking more than a hundred wickets during a season in club cricket.

Smith played 96 First Class games while with Somerset between 1949 and 1956. He joined Devon in 1957.

Smith’s last outing for Devon was against Dorset at Exeter in August 1961 when he took four wickets for 20 runs with his slow left-arm bowling. It was his best and last bowling performance.

Roy Smith was born in Taunton on February 14, 1930 and went to Huish’s Grammar School before moving to Woolacombe on the North Devon coast in 1944.

Smith was a talented all-round sportsman who started to make his mark playing cricket for North Devon and football for Ilfracombe. He was a good enough soccer player to earn trials with Liverpool at Tottenham Hotspur as a defender.

A stunning season in club cricket, during which Smith took 117 wickets at less than eight runs each, drew the attention of Somerset CCC, who offered him a job working as assistant secretary to Nigel Daneill. His first documented appearance for Somerset was in a benefit game for opener Frank Lee in 1947.

Roy Smith during his Somerset career | Photo: Roger Mann CollectionSmith did his National Service in the Army at Norton Fitzwarren Camp near Taunton. In a trial match against the Army he took eight wickets for 56 runs.

His full debut for Somerset came in June 1949 against Cambridge University at Bath when he scored 40 in the second innings. Smith left the army in February 1950 and was immediately offered a summer contract by Somerset. At age 20 he was the youngest contracted player on the staff.

Smith kept fit during the winter by playing Western League football for Bridgwater Town.

While honing his professional skills during his first season with Somerset, Smith appeared in a number of second team fixtures, one of which was a memorable game against R J O Meyer’s XI.

Jack (RJO) Meyer, a former Somerset captain and founder of Millfield School near Glastonbury, was so impressed with Smith’s second-innings hundred in a drawn game he presented the young cricketer with a new bat.

In the 1952 season, Smith played in roughly half of Somerset's First Class matches. In the game against Essex at Taunton, batting at No 8, he made 58, which was his first score of more than 50. Towards the end of that season, he took four Leicestershire wickets for 91 the best figures of his professional career.

Smith was a regular player in the Somerset side in 1953. He made 1176 runs at an average of 26.17 and scored his maiden 100 against Worcestershire at Frome, which earned him his county cap. Another highlight of Coronation Year and his career was his 77 not out against Australia at Taunton.

Smith’s final First Class game for Somerset was in July 1955 against Worcestershire at Taunton. He was retained for the 1956 season, but only appeared in second-eleven fixtures.

When Smith left Somerset he had played in 96 matches and scored exactly 2,600 runs at an average of 17.10 with one century and nine scores in excess of 50. He also took 19 wickets at an average of 57.00, with a best of four for 91.

Smith had no difficulty gaining admission to St Luke’s College in Exeter, where he qualified as a mathematics teacher and returned to Huish’s to teach and coach the football and cricket teams. He stayed there until 1978.

Devon invited Smith to play for them in a two-day friendly against Gloucestershire 2nd XI early in July 1957. He scored 57 and took four wickets for 39 runs.

The MCC granted Smith a special registration for Devon in time for him to make his Minor Counties debut against Cornwall at Liskeard two weeks after the Gloucestershire game.

Smith was dismissed without scoring against Cornwall – and did not have to bowl – but showed his worth for the side with 55 runs and five wickets across both innings in Devon’s next game versus Dorset.

Between Cornwall at Liskeard in 1957 and Dorset at Exeter in 1961, Roy Smith played 31 Minor Counties game for Devon. He took four wickets in an innings three times: against Dorset (1961), Cornwall (1957) and his former Somerset 2nd XI team-mates (1958).

Smith’s best performance with the bat was to hit 150 against Cornwall at Plymouth in 1959. He made half-centuries against Somerset 2nd XI (1958) and Oxfordshire (1959). Smith scored 912 runs – average 24.64 – and took 49 wickets at an almost identical average.

After retiring from teaching, Smith was a frequent spectator at Devon CCC home games, where he often met up with former St Luke’s College pal Terry Townsend.

“I had not seen him for years when he emerged from a refreshment tent during a game a Bovey Tracey, saw me and started reciting the Latin prayer that came before our evening meal at college,” said Townsend.

“I never played cricket with Roy at Luke’s – I don’t think he was that interested – but played a lot of football with him. He was cool and calm at the back, always tidying up problems.

“As a person he was kind a friendly towards everyone he met. He was a fine, all-round sportsman and smashing company.”

Roy Smith spent his final days in a nursing home in Weston-super-Mare. He died on September 22, 2020.