Former Australia captain Steve Smith — who returned to the Australian camp after serving a one-year ban — made a magnificent 144 against England to keep his side alive in the first Test match of the Ashes series.
This century was a special knock for the classy right-hander as he became the second-fastest (118 innings) batsman to hit 24 Test centuries with Don Bradman occupying the top spot (66 innings). The fact that it took Smith a long time, one year and three months to be precise, to climb out of the pressure pit to play a Test match for Australia and score a hundred made the knock even more special.
On 28 March last year, the then Australia captain Smith was handed over a one-year ban from Cricket Australia after the ball-tampering saga in the third Test match against South Africa at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town. And since then, time has been cruel to the man with haplessness clouding his way.
The bloke had to skip Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20 tournament in January due to a ligament problem. Smith then, went under the knife and was in brace for some time. For a while, he lost his love for the game and even lost hope of donning the whites for Australia again in his life.
Smith’s agony contained a series of sleepless nights where he had to keep his mouth shut and his head below the parapet. But it was the immense practice and serene self-belief of the champion batsman that overturned his fate, as a result of which he returned to the international arena, playing for Australia in World Cup 2019.
But the comeback of the former captain was not applauded by cricket fans as the spectators left no stone unturned to mock Smith and his teammate David Warner who was also involved with him in the ball-tampering fiasco.
Smith, in the recently concluded World Cup, scored 379 runs in 10 innings at an average of 37.90 with 4 half-centuries against his name.
Where the outing to England and Wales for the mega event ended with a mediocre performance, Smith’s actual test was yet to come when the 30-year-old would don the whites for Australia in the Ashes. The awaited day did come for him but not the way he would have expected.
On 1 August, Australia were reeling at 17 for 2 under overcast conditions and it was then when Smith stepped in to bat. The batsman was greeted with a chorus of “boos” and banners calling him a “cheater”. Though misery struck him once again, a robust Smith stationed himself on a side to overpour his emotions with the elegance of his strokeplay. The precision with which the batsman timed every ball depicted how hard he had worked on himself, physically as well as mentally.
Yes, there were some edgy moments but the batsman showed his nerves of steel to stay calm and hit his 9th century of the Ashes. And before England could wrap up Australia, Smith ensured the guests of a fighting 284 runs on the board.
With a lot more to play for Australia, a resilient Smith is up for the new challenge and this time with more energy and enthusiasm.