Smith: I never thought I would play again

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Eng­land 10 for 0 trail Aus­tralia 284 (Smith 144, Broad 5-86) by 274 runs

In the af­ter­glow of his stu­pen­dous 144 on the open­ing day of the Ashes se­ries, Steven Smith has ad­mit­ted there were times dur­ing his 12-month ban for the New­lands ball tam­per­ing scan­dal where he fell out of love with cricket and con­sid­ered walk­ing away from the game com­pletely.

Specif­i­cally, Smith stated that at the time around his el­bow surgery in Jan­uary this year and sub­se­quent re­hab he felt a lack of de­sire to play for vir­tu­ally the first and only time in his life.

The el­bow prob­lem, picked up while play­ing in the Bangladesh Premier League, was for a time con­sid­ered problemati­c for Smith’s re­turn from the ban, but he re­vealed that it brought with it a far deeper strug­gle.

For­tu­nately for Aus­tralia, given the bat­ting ge­nius Smith demon­strated in a cen­tury that took Tim Pane’s team from a per­ilous 122 for 8 to a cred­itable 284 af­ter bat­ting first on a tricky Edg­bas­ton pitch, the re­moval of the sta­bil­is­ing brace pro­tect­ing his el­bow co­in­cided with an im­me­di­ate re­turn of his over­pow­er­ing love for cricket and, in par­tic­u­lar, for bat­ting. “There were times through­out the last 15 months where I didn’t know if I was ever go­ing to play cricket again,” Smith said in Birm­ing­ham.

“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 when I got my brace off my el­bow I found my love for it again.

“I don’t know what it was, it was like a trig­ger to go again, I want to play, I want to go out and play for Aus­tralia and I guess make peo­ple proud and just do what I love do­ing.

“I’ve never sort of had those feel­ings ever be­fore where I didn’t have a great love for the game and it was there for a lit­tle while. “For­tu­nately that love’s come back and I’m re­ally grate­ful to be in this po­si­tion now, play­ing for Aus­tralia again and do­ing what I love.”

In raising stands of 88 with Peter Sid­dle and 74 with the last man Nathan Lyon, Smith turned the course of the day, the match and per­haps the en­tire se­ries, while mak­ing a com­pelling re­turn to Test cricket some 15 months af­ter the dis­grace of Cape Town. “I didn’t re­ally know what to do to be hon­est, it’s been a long time com­ing, but I’m just, I don’t know, I’m sort of lost for words at the mo­ment,” Smith said of the mo­ment he reached his cen­tury.

“Just re­ally proud that I was able to help pull the team out of a lit­tle bit of trou­ble. “Ob­vi­ously Eng­land bowled ex­cep­tion­ally well in the first two ses­sions and it was hard work out there, I’m just proud that I was able to dig in and fight through the dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods and get our­selves to a com­pet­i­tive to­tal.

“I think it has got to be one of my best hun­dreds, def­i­nitely, first Ashes Test match, the ball was do­ing a fair bit out in the morn­ing so I had to work re­ally hard.

“I got beaten a few times but I just had to let that go and con­cen­trated on the next ball and kept dig­ging in, I know that the first

“Test for an Ashes se­ries is al­ways big. I didn’t want to give my wicket up eas­ily.

“I wanted to keep fight­ing and for­tu­nately I was able to dig in to­day and get our­selves to a rea­son­able to­tal I think.

“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 so to be able to get to my hun­dred and give him a re­ally big hug and let all my emo­tions out that was re­ally spe­cial.”

CON­STANT BOO­ING

There was more or less a con­stant stream of boo­ing from the crowd across the day, most in­tense when Smith came to the wicket af­ter David Warner.

Cameron Ban­croft fell early, and it con­tin­ued when he reached his cen­tury and spent most of his time ac­knowl­edg­ing an Aus­tralian team bal­cony that was go­ing, in Smith’s word, “berserk”.

He fo­cused on the team and also the not in­con­sid­er­able Aus­tralian sup­port from the stands, re­pay­ing them with an in­nings that will long be re­mem­bered.

Aus­tralian crick­eter Steven Smith.

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