Steve Smith, who served a 12-month ban for his role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year, marked his return to Test cricket with a gritty century to rescue Australia on the opening day of the Ashes series at Edgbaston on Thursday. Australia were reeling at 122/8 against England but Smith defied all odds to take the visitors' total to 284. Smith scored 144 runs to bring up his 24th Test century in 118 innings and became the second fastest batsman to do so. Only Donald Bradman got his 24th century in fewer innings (66). Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar took 123 and 125 innings respectively.
Smith is now equal with Greg Chappell, Viv Richards and Mohammad Yousuf on 24 Test centuries. Only six Australia batsmen have more Test centuries now.
Moreover, Smith has scored nine centuries in 42 innings and averages over 60 in the Ashes. Five of the nine hundreds have come in the last seven Ashes Tests.
The former Australia captain, ignoring the repeated boos of the crowd, said he had contemplated the end of his career after the infamous scandal in South Africa.
"There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn't know if I was ever going to play cricket again," Smith said after his masterful knock.
Smith's near six-hour innings was a chanceless affair until Stuart Broad eventually bowled him.
The England pacer claimed his 100th Test wicket against Australia, completing an innings haul of 5/86.
At stumps, England were 10/0 with openers Jason Roy (6) and Rory Burns (4) surviving the final two overs of the first day.