Steve Smith celebrates his remarkable century at Edgbaston.
Steve Smith celebrates his remarkable century at Edgbaston.

Look who's back: Smith heroics saves Aussies

STEVE Smith scored one of the all-time great Ashes hundreds and totally embarrassed England with a day-one performance at Edgbaston that has been immediately added to Test folklore.

In his return to Test cricket after more than 12 months not only did the former Australia captain rescue his side from a perilous position, he conquered the masses at "Fortress Edgbaston", who booed him mercilessly from the moment he walked to the wicket, with 144 of the most crucial runs he'll ever score.  

When Smith was finally out, two overs before the close of play, Australia had 284 on the board and England, at 0-10, facing a mountain they didn't think they'd have to climb. 

Smith was so dominant that England captain Joe Root sent nine fielders to the boundary late in the day in a raising of the white flag which earned condemnation from commentators

Early in his innings the Barmy Army sang "We saw you cry on the telly", referencing Smith's excruciating Sydney press conference on arrival home from South Africa last year in their bid to unsettle him.

They were wearing Smith masks which captured the painful moment, too.

But that torrid time could yet prove the making of the man.

The Barmy Army were merciless.
The Barmy Army were merciless.

 Smith revealed he fell out of love with cricket six months ago and thought he'd never play again as the depth of his removal from the game hit home.  

But his passion is well and truly back and all of Australia are better for it as he further enhances an already legendary status in the game.

After completing his masterful knock in Birmingham, one which saved his team's early blushes in the Ashes opener and sent England captain Joe Root barmy as he tried to get him out, Smith revealed that earlier this year he thought he'd never play again.

"There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn't know if I was ever going to play cricket again," an exhausted, Smith revealed after stumps.

"I lost a bit of love for it at one point, particularly when I had my elbow operation. And it was really bizarre, it was the day I got the brace off my elbow I found a love for it again.

Steve Smith's emotions were clear to see as he scored a century
Steve Smith's emotions were clear to see as he scored a century

"I don't know what it was, it was like a trigger that said 'I'm ready to go again, I want to play'.

"And I wanted to go out and play for Australia and make people proud, and do what I love doing. "I have never had those feelings before. I didn't have a great sort of love for the game and it was there for a little while. "Fortunately that love has come back. I am really grateful to be in this position, playing for Australia again and doing what I love."

BRILLIANT CENTURY

When Smith drive Ben Stokes for four to bring up his 24th Test hundred, his ninth against England and fifth in his past 10 innings against the old enemy, the volume of cheers equalled the boos as even the conquered acknowledged an innings for the ages.

The circumstances made Smith's effort that much more remarkable. He came in when the score was 2-17, after David Warner (2) and Cameron Bancroft (8) went early.

David Warner didn't last long in his Test return.
David Warner didn't last long in his Test return.

Smith watched as wickets tumbled around him and his team slumped to 8-122 midway through the second session in an Ashes opener turning ugly.

Then, however, it became Smith versus England and, with significant help from first Peter Siddle (44) then Nathan Lyon (12 not out), Australia's best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman was the clear victor.

So in control of the game was Smith that before every over a four-man English crew assembled around the bowler trying to work out a plan to dismiss him.

Plan A was getting everyone else out, which they nearly achieved. But B, C and D, which included, at various stages, a leg slip, three fielders out for the hook, and a barrage of short bowling, failed. They even tried plan E, an LBW review right on 6pm, their last of the innings, that was going so far down leg side even the keeper would have missed it.

Peter Siddle helped drag the Aussies out of real trouble.
Peter Siddle helped drag the Aussies out of real trouble.

Plan F was arguably the greatest fail. That's when Smith was swatting fours, and sixes, for fun, with Lyon hanging around up the other end late in the final session, so Root just tried to protect the boundaries.

It was a signal of complete and utter befuddlement of how to get Smith out.

In his past 10 innings against them, Smith now has 986 runs. That includes five hundreds and a double hundred.

The scope of the morning disaster was overwhelmed by Smith's dominance which was a reminder of just what the Australian team had missed in the 12 months he wasn't allowed to play.

Stuart Broad, who bowled Smith, finished with figures of 5-86, took his 100th wicket against Australia, while England are certain to be a bowler short in the second innings after Jimmy Anderson suffered another calf injury.

The Aussies line up to congratulate Steve Smith on his day one heroics.
The Aussies line up to congratulate Steve Smith on his day one heroics.

DISTRAUGHT ANDERSON'S ASHES COULD BE OVER
By Joe Barton

The immediate playing future of England's most precious asset, Jimmy Anderson, are unclear with fears the "distraught" paceman's aggravated calf injury could rock their Ashes campaign.

The 37-year-old was a late inclusion in England's playing XI having convinced the team's medical staff that he'd recovered from a calf injury suffered a month ago.

But that backfired spectacularly, with Anderson breaking down after just four overs - leaving England a bowler short and prompting questions about how he was passed fit in the first place, and whether he should've been picked ahead of young star Jofra Archer.

The swing king went so far as to apologise to his England teammates for leaving them in the lurch and likely a player short for the rest of the Test.

He will anxiously await scans to reveal the damage with fellow paceman Stuart Broad admitting he could be facing "a couple of weeks" on the sideline, which would destroy his Ashes hopes given the condensed schedule of five Tests in six weeks.

Anderson's receives treatment during day 1
Anderson's receives treatment during day 1

"He is down, he's frustrated. He actually came and said sorry to the bowlers," Broad revealed after taking 5-86.

"Not that he's got anything to be sorry for, but he's just - he's distraught he couldn'tbe out there today but i don't know the next step with it.

"It could show not much and he'll bowl 2nd innings, or it could show something and it might be a couple of weeks.

"He feels like he's let the bowling group down bout of course he hasn't.

"He's a bit distraught."

Without Anderson, England ran out of answers against a rampant Steve Smith - with Broad admitting he was exhausted after carrying the bulk of the workload, sending down 22.4 overs.

"I feel pretty exhausted. I'd forgotten how nerve-racking and tense Ashes cricket is," he said.

England's woes were compounded by a poor bowling display from fourth seamer Ben Stokes, who took 1-77 from 18 overs and conceded runs at a worrying 4.27 an over, while Moeen Ali had 1-42 from 13 overs.

"If Jimmy's not able to bowl again, then Moeen's going to be our key man," Broad said."He bowled beautifully today I thought … and it will go back top those sort of days when we played a three-seamer attack with Swanny (former spinner Graeme Swann).

"Mo can do an attacking, holding and the seamers can fire from one end."

SMITH'S REDEMPTION HAILED AS GREATEST EVER

BY Joe Barton

Steve Smith's magnificent redemption century has been hailed one of the greatest in history as he came back from a 12-month ban to revive Australia's Ashes hopes in extraordinary fashion.

Smith plundered 144, batting masterfully with the tail while enduring endless abuse from the ruthless Edgbaston fans.

And in doing so he had the cricketing world in awe at his remarkable feats, cementing his title as the best since Don Bradman and reminding everyone that he is still the best Test batsman on the planet.

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan described the knock as "one of the all-time outstanding Test innings", noting that the context of it being his first day of Test cricket since being banned for his role in the ugly ball-tampering affair made added another layer to its quality.

"To do that in his first innings back in Test cricket is remarkable. Sometimes you have to admire greatness," Vaughan tweeted.

At one point England threw up their hands at the thought of getting Smith out, raising the white flag and banishing all fielders to the boundary.

"I had everyone on the boundary and he still hit me for four at one stage. He has played beautifully, there's no doubt about that," said Stuart Broad, before making a plea to the groundsmen to give them some support in stopping Smith.

"For us to win this Ashes series, we're going to have to get him out early.

"And hopefully a little bit more pace and bounce in the pitches."

Australian great Shane Warne took note of the emotion Smith displayed upon reaching three figures, as he looked up to the skies and raised his arms in triumph.

"You can see there it means a lot to him," Warne said."He's been through a lot in the last 12 months and he deserved that hundred.

"All sorts of emotions there but a well-deserved hundred more than anything else when his team really needed. He's delivered so many times for Australia and he delivered again in the first Ashes Test match.

"A terrific player. One of the greats."

That view was supported by a host of Test legends, with Indian greats Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman both saluting the Australian star.

"Really was an extraordinary innings from Steve Smith in his comeback test," wrote Laxman."An innings full of guts , intensity and tenacity."

Added Sehwag: "What a 100 for Steve Smith. Under difficult conditions, arguably one of the best batsman in Test Cricket."Respected Indian cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle anointed Smith as one of the titans of the game."Steve Smith has shown his class. Again. Genuine great in test cricket," he said.

News Corp Australia


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