Welcome Back Steve Smith!
Playing a test match after over 16 months against the high-spirited, recently crowned world champions in their own backyard, there must be some pressure. There must be some rust, some dust. Playing in front of a hostile crowd with sections of it wearing masks of your teary eyed face must wear you down a bit. As it turns out, none of that happens if you are Steven Peter Smith! No rust, no dust…but a whole lot of grit, class and brilliance.
Ashes is the cricket of very high stakes. Its a competition in the real sense of the word. You perform in the Ashes and you become a hero, you fail and you are humiliated. Your opponents, along with their fans and the media, are very fierce, and will not let a chance go to make some fun out of your misery. It’s brutal, but its The Ashes and it has always been this way! Smith not only rescued Australia from a sinking position but also completely shifted the momentum towards the men in gold. One minute England are all over Australia, having them down on their knees at 120 for 8. The next thing you know, Steve Smith is standing in the middle, waving his bat towards an elated Australian dressing room whilst English fielders watch from the boundaries. Everyone is talking about Smith. Its all about him now. All the great work England did in the first few hours has just vanished. Brutal, right?
The first day of an Ashes tour is a very important one, because it gives you an idea of which way the wind is blowing. Playing his first test match after almost a year and a half, Smith scored 144 runs, the most on the first day of an Ashes tour in the 130 year history of the competition. The fact that he scored 102 of those runs with a no.9 and no.10 on the other end makes his already very special knock even more remarkable. A brilliant innings from an absolutely brilliant Test match batsman!
Crowd was booing relentlessly when Smith came out to bat, with a very little section applauding him to mark his comeback to the Test arena. A few hours later, when Smith stood in the middle celebrating his ton with his arms aloft in joy, the applause and claps were a lot more prominent. There were still boos, and a lot of them, but quite a lot of them had also died down. Nevertheless, the Australian star couldn’t care less! His face was beaming with pure joy as he waved his bat towards the dressing room where all his mates were up on their feet in acknowledgement of the gem of a knock he was in the middle of! The Australian fans in the crowd were also on their feet with pride, and they had every reason to be proud. Their hero had just scored a remarkable Ashes hundred amid a storm of relentless boos while shutting a lot of them silent in the process! Smith went on to score another 44 runs, putting Australia in a pretty comfortable seat after they were reduced to 122-8 a few hours earlier. Regardless of not being welcomed by the misbehaving hosts, Steve Smith had formally arrived!
His 144 might have apparently come off 219 balls, but actually it was 494 days. 494 long days of regret, hard work and wait, and when he finally made his comeback in the longest format, he played like he meant it. He crafted an innings of the gritty brilliance that is typical to him. An innings that reeked of his class for every moment it lasted. When it comes to Test cricket, Smith really is an artist and this stupendous knock is definitely one of his finer works! “One of my best hundreds for sure”, Smith himself said later in the day. Considering everything, this innings from Steve Smith is easily one of the best test innings of the 21st century, if not of all time!
The innings is over now and the best part is that Steve Smith is back to Test Cricket and here to stay. If his knock is a prelude of things to come later in the Ashes and the ICC Test Championship, we are in for a treat.
Welcome back Steve Smith, you have been missed.
Hussnain Magsi is a part of the Down The Ground editorial team. He is also a Cricket blogger and loves writing about Cricket.