Smith wondered if he would ever play cricket again before returning in style
Australia batsman Steve Smith admitted there was a period during his ball-tampering ban where he wondered if he would ever play cricket again after confounding the boo-boys with a defiant Ashes century.
The former captain’s majestic 144 formed the backbone of a total of 284 all out on the opening day of the Specsavers series, helping Australia recover from a perilous 122 for eight after they had decided to bat first.
After appearing in his first Test since a 12-month suspension for his role in the much-publicised ‘sandpapergate’ scandal, Smith opened up on falling out of love with the game as he recovered from elbow surgery earlier this year.
He said: “There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn’t know if I was ever going to play cricket again. I lost a bit of love for it at one point, particularly when I had my elbow operation.
“It was really bizarre that it was the day I got the brace off my elbow, I found a love for it again.
“I don’t know what it was, it was like a trigger that just said ‘right I’m ready to go again, I want to play and I want to go out and play for Australia and make people proud and just do what I love doing’.
“I’ve never had those feelings ever before, I didn’t have a great love for the game, it was there for a little while and fortunately that love has come back.
Smith’s 144 “I’m really grateful to be in this position now, playing for Australia again and doing what I love.”
England looked to be in the box seat in mid-afternoon at a raucous Edgbaston but Australia added a mammoth 162 for their final two wickets as Peter Siddle (44) and Nathan Lyon (12no) showed resolute application – albeit against a depleted bowling attack shorn of James Anderson because of a calf injury.
Smith, though, was the headline act, his 219-ball tour de force including 16 fours and two sixes, as he brought up a 24th Test ton and ninth against England.
He said: “It’s got to be one of my best hundreds. It’s been a long time coming but I’m sort of lost for words, just really proud that I was able to help pull the team out of a bit of trouble.
“I know the first Test of an Ashes series is always big, so I didn’t want to give my wicket up easily, I wanted to keep fighting and fortunately I was able to dig in and get ourselves to a reasonable total.
“I thought Peter Siddle did a magnificent job, that partnership we were able to form, and Nathan Lyon as well, he was magnificent.
“He actually said to me ‘that’s the most nervous I’ve ever been out in the middle batting’. To be able to get to my hundred and give him a really big hug and let all my emotions out was pretty special.”
Ball-tampering cohorts David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were dismissed for single-figure scores, while the duo and Smith were heavily jeered by a hostile Birmingham crowd, a legacy of what occurred in Cape Town last year.
Smith had the last laugh, his century greeted with an appreciable amount of applause as well as boos, although he insists the crowd reaction does not faze him.
He said: “It doesn’t bother me or motivate me. I know I’ve got the support of the boys in the room and, for me, that’s all that really matters.
“They went berserk on the balcony when I got to my hundred and just looking up at them, it sent shivers down my spine.”
As for what happened at Newlands, Smith added: “That’s all in the past now. I’m moving on and I’m proud to be back here and playing for Australia, and hopefully contributing to a Test win here.”