In Brief

‘I’m lost for words’: Steve Smith reflects on an emotional return to Test cricket

In the first Test match since his ban ended Smith saves Australia on opening day of the Ashes against England

The Ashes first Test: day one, Edgbaston
  • Australia first innings: 284 all out (80.4 overs) 
  • England first innings: 10-0 (2.0 overs) 
  • England trail by 274 runs

The first day of the Ashes lived up to the hype as Edgbaston witnessed a dramatic start to the series. 

It should have been a day that belonged to the English bowlers, who early in the afternoon had reduced the tourists to 122-8, but that was before Steve Smith reminded the world of his prodigious talent.

Boo boys silenced

It’s been a torrid 18 months for the Australia batsman and former skipper. Once the golden boy of the baggy green caps, Smith was banned from cricket, along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, for his part in the sandpaper scandal in March 2018. 

Yesterday marked his return to Test cricket, and although he walked out to a chorus of boos from the partisan Edgbaston crowd, the majority stood to applaud his magnificent century. 

Tenacious tail-end

That Smith was able to reach three figures was due to the dogged resistance of Peter Siddle, the 34-year-old seam bowler batting at No.10. 

In only his third Test in three years, Siddle added 88 for the ninth wicket, of which he scored half. Even after Siddle fell, Smith found another tenacious partner in Nathan Lyon, who contributed 12 in a last-wicket stand of 74. 

Not only did Smith reach his century but he dragged Australia to 284 all out, a decent total on a tricky pitch.

Anderson out?

England survived two overs to end on 10-0 but the home side finished the day frustrated with the way events had unfolded. 

They might have been able to finish off the Australians much earlier had James Anderson been on the pitch. England’s veteran swing bowler managed just four overs before he hobbled off with what’s believed to be a recurrence of last month’s calf injury. 

Anderson subsequently underwent a scan in hospital, and according to BBC Sport the “distraught” bowler apologised to team-mates for his injury. 

“He feels like he has let the bowling group down, but he hasn’t,” said Stuart Broad, who was the pick of the England bowlers with figures of 5-86. 

“He is a bit quiet and a bit frustrated. He came up to the bowlers and said sorry, but there is nothing to be sorry about. We don’t know the full extent yet. All we can hope is the news is better than we expect.” 

‘Make people proud’

If the day was a disastrous one for Anderson, for Smith it was one of the most memorable of his career. His 144 runs underlined his importance to this Australia side, and revealed him to be a cricketer of exceptional character, given the criticism he’s received in the last 18 months. 

“I’m really grateful to be in this position now, playing for Australia again and doing what I love,” he said. “I want to play for Australia and make people proud.

“It’s been a long time coming, getting another Test hundred, it was just a huge moment. I’m lost for words, I don’t really know what to say.”

Reactions to Smith’s superb century

Michael Vaughan, former England captain: “Today we saw one of the great, great innings. Where Steve Smith has come back from, after an emotional rollercoaster, for him to deliver this is incredible.”

Nasser Hussain, former England captain: “That ban has made him even hungrier. If anything, he’s now going to make up for lost time. That could be bad news for England in the next few weeks.”

The Sun: “Should’ve banned him for life.”

Today’s back pages: ‘Sandpaper Steve’ roughs up England

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