Steve Smith Saves The Day With Stunning Century In First Ashes Test
Steve Smith has picked up where he left off, brushing aside Edgbaston's barbs and boos in a classy knock of 144 that lifted Australia to a total of 284 on day one of the first Ashes Test.
Smith, as was so often the case prior to the ball-tampering scandal, looked to be batting on a different pitch to teammates as Stuart Broad ignited collapses of 3-33 and 5-23 in Birmingham.
Australia crumbled to 8-122 before Smith, who successfully reviewed his lbw dismissal to Broad on 34 in the 34th over, landed counter-punches with help from Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon.
England reached 0-10 at stumps, surviving two overs.
David Warner and Cameron Bancroft both fell to Broad cheaply on Thursday but Smith was nothing short of superb in his Test comeback after a year-long ban, starting cautiously then teeing off as the tiring bowlers ran out of ideas.
There were some boos for Smith upon reaching three figures, a milestone he achieved by pushing a Ben Stokes delivery through the covers and to the rope. However, plenty of supporters in the sold-out crowd stood and applauded Smith's 24th Test ton that triggered emotive celebrations.
Smith's innings will be written up as redemptive but in terms of the match it was monumental, especially given Jimmy Anderson tweaked his troublesome calf and may not roll his arm over again in this Test.
Smith, who eventually became Broad's fifth victim when bowled, and Siddle put on Australia's highest ninth-wicket stand in more than seven years.
Moeen Ali snapped the 88-run partnership by ending Siddle's plucky knock of 44 during Thursday's final session , at which point Smith was on 85.
The former skipper and Lyon added 74 runs for the final wicket, with Stokes' frustration showing as he struggled for control while Smith started to score far more freely.
Lyon, Siddle, Travis Head and Usman Khawaja were the only other batsmen to reach double figures, underlining how much Australia will have Smith to thank should they snatch a 1-0 series lead.
Smith was booed while walking on and off the field and upon reaching his batting milestones, while supporters waved pieces of sandpaper at all three of the Cape Town trio.
Some English fans donned masks of Smith, fashioned from the photo of him repeatedly breaking down in tears at Sydney airport last year, while others chanted "we saw you cry on the telly".
There were fears a desperate Smith, who worked overtime in the nets during the past fortnight even by his own obsessive standards, risked burnout before the series started.
The right-hander's quirky quest for perfection continued on day one of the series, during which he regularly threw his head back in disgust at dot balls or mistimed strokes while fidgeting in trademark fashion.
But Smith was a picture of concentration as Broad and Chris Woakes steamed in after lunch, threatening to roll Australia for less than 150.