Ashes 2019: Steve Smith rates brilliant 144 on Test comeback as one of his favourite hundreds
Steve Smith: "I think it has got to be one of my best hundreds." © AFP

As far as Test comebacks go, this one is very special. Playing his first Test match since March 2018, after which he was served a 12-month ban for his role in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal, former Australia captain Steve Smith marked his comeback innings with a brilliant 144 on day one of the 2019 Ashes.

Australia, having elected to bat, were in deep trouble at 122/8 on day one at Edgbaston. But Smith, with help from Australia’s last two batsmen, got the visitors to 284. He was last out for 144, his 24th Test century, having put on for 88 the ninth wicket with Peter Siddle (44) and 74 for the last wicket with Nathan Lyon (12*).

Asked where this century, after a year away from international cricket, and 16 months since he last played a Test match, ranks for him, Smith had no doubt that it was right up there with his best.

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“I think it has got to be one of my best hundreds, definitely,” he told reporters on Thursday. “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 of an Ashes series is always big.”

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Smith’s century may end up proving match-winning, giving England’s batting worries and Australia’s express pace attack. He batted 219 deliveries for his 144, and Siddle’s 44 was the next best contribution to Australia’s total.

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“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,” said Smith. “Peter Siddle did a magnificent job, that partnership we were able to form and Nathan Lyon as well he was magnificent.

“He (Lyon) 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.”

England went into stumps on 10 for no loss.