Australia’s Steve Smith said he had contemplated the end of his career after marking his first Test since a year-long ball-tampering ban with a superb century on the opening day of the 2019 Ashes.
The tourists were struggling at 17-2 at Edgbaston on Thursday when former Australia captain Smith walked out to bat and they later collapsed to 122-8.
But Smith, ignoring the repeated boos of the crowd, made 144 in a total of 284 after current Australia skipper Tim Paine won the toss before England closed on 10-0.
Smith’s 24th Test century was the star batsman’s first international hundred since he returned to Australia duty during a World Cup where he made 85 in last month’s Edgbaston semi-final defeat by eventual champions England.
“There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn’t know if I was ever going to play cricket again,” Smith, renowned for his obsessive devotion to the sport, told reporters after stumps.
“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’.
There were many familiar Smith traits on show in Birmingham, including the repeated fidgeting in his stance, while the crowd could scarcely have been tougher on the 30-year-old than he was when berating himself for the occasional loose shot.
Also on display was Smith’s ability to bat well alongside tailenders, with Australia’s last two wickets more than doubling their score.
Smith’s near six-hour innings was a chanceless affair until he was last man out, with his biggest scare coming when given out lbw for 34 to Stuart Broad not playing a shot only to overturn the decision on review.
Smith’s classy ton did not go unnoticed On Twitter.
Michael Vaughan, Former England Skipper
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) August 1, 2019
Virender Sehwag, Former India Opener
What a 100 for Steve Smith. Under difficult conditions, arguably one of the best batsman in Test Cricket. #Ashes
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) August 1, 2019
Really was an extraordinary innings from Steve Smith in his comeback test, an innings full of guts , intensity and tenacity .
From 122/8 , he has taken Australia to 284. #Ashes pic.twitter.com/jwapJu5FLi
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) August 1, 2019