Steve Smith stared down a depleted England attack and a hostile Edgbaston crowd as his superb century single-handedly rescued Australia on the opening day of the 2019 Ashes.
The first Specsavers Test would have kicked off with a clean sweep for the hosts had Smith not hit a brilliant 144, more than half of his team’s 284 all out and a distant dream after they limped to 122 for eight.
Sixteen months after watching their careers collapse in disgrace following the sandpaper scandal, Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all returned to boos, jeers and brickbats from the notoriously raucous Birmingham crowd, but while the latter pair faltered Smith flourished.
England had one hand tied behind their back from the moment record wicket-taker James Anderson was struck down by a right calf injury that restricted him to one four-over spell, and he faces an uncertain future in the match and the series.
After Smith’s tour de force was ended, Rory Burns and Jason Roy were left to face two awkward overs at the close but held their nerve to reach 10 without loss.
Tweet of the day
Tim Paine’s assertion that he “could name you 15” more intimidating cricket grounds than Edgbaston seemed to affront a number of observers and laid down the gauntlet to the Hollies Stand and the Barmy Army in particular. There was an air of pantomime to the barracking which greeted Warner, Bancroft and Smith to the crease while squares of sandpaper where brandished in the Hollies Stand on Warner’s dismissal. A ‘cheat, cheat, cheat’ chant was readily used to the trio, the legacy of last year’s ball-tampering scandal which created what must have been, at the very least, an uncomfortable atmosphere. While Warner and Bancroft registered single-figure scores, Smith had the last laugh.
Given the hostility he faced and Australia’s perilous predicament – they were 122 for eight at one stage – Smith produced one of the all-time great innings. Peter Siddle and then Nathan Lyon provided some support but Australia more than doubling their total from eight down is thanks to the efforts of Smith. Blocking out the boo boys, Smith registered his 24th Test ton and ninth against England, while his Bradman-esque average of 90.09 in the first innings of a match is scarcely believable in this day and age. There were a smattering of boos which greeted him making it to three figures but there was also an appreciable amount of applause. Is he winning over some doubters?
Anderson car woe
England will be have everything crossed that Anderson’s latest calf injury will not keep him sidelined for too long. It was the culmination of a dreadful few hours for England’s leading Test wicket-taker of all-time, whose car was crashed into outside the team hotel at the start of the day, albeit without the 37-year-old in it, according to Jonathan Agnew. The BBC cricket correspondent told Test Match Special the tale of misfortune.
Dar and Wilson have day to forget
Neither Aleem Dar nor Joel Wilson will look back on Thursday with any fondness, technology highlighting a number of blunders from the on-field umpires. David Warner avoided a golden duck despite nicking Stuart Broad before being given out lbw off the same bowler – though ball-tracking showed the delivery would have slid down leg side. Woakes overturned not out decisions to see off Usman Khawaja and Matthew Wade while, in-between, Smith successfully reviewed being given out lbw off Broad. James Pattinson also neglected to send a leg before decision upstairs, had he done so he would have been reprieved, while a big inside edge spared Peter Siddle an early dismissal.
Top of the shots
Once Australia had subsided to 122 for eight midway through the afternoon session, having lost their last five wickets for 23 runs, English hopes would have been high of a quick conclusion to the innings. Step forward Siddle. Included at the expense of Josh Hazlewood for just his third Test in nearly three years, the 34-year-old Siddle displayed the application and grit that had been lacking from a number of his colleagues up the order. His 44 was not just a stodgy innings, a cover drive for four off Broad a stroke many top order batsmen would have been proud of.
FIVE for @StuartBroad8! 🖐
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) August 1, 2019
The competition for an Ashes bowling berth among both teams is fierce. Perhaps that explains why Stuart Broad was bowling on a practice strip 15 minutes before the start. He was certainly purposeful in the early stages, statistics showing he was bowling fuller and faster than he has done for many years. Smith’s tour de force may temper his pride at figures of five for 86 but Broad finished Australia’s innings with a superb yorker that Smith was unable to hit across the line, the ball clattering into the stumps – the England seamer’s 100th Ashes wicket.
August 2: England v Australia, day two of the first Ashes Test, Edgbaston