BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – Steve Smith scored 144 on his return to test cricket after a ban for ball-tampering as Australia recovered from 122-8 to 284 all out against England on the opening day of the Ashes series on Thursday.
England openers Rory Burns (4 not out) and Jason Roy (6 not out) survived two overs to reach stumps at 10-0 in the first test.
Smith and Peter Siddle came to the rescue of Australia’s first innings with an 88-run partnership for the ninth wicket at Edgbaston, and Smith then shared 74 runs with Nathan Lyon (12 not out) for the last wicket in an extraordinary turnaround.
Smith was finally bowled while trying to smash Stuart Broad. The former captain’s brilliant 219-ball knock, which provided more than half his team’s runs, included two sixes and 16 fours.
Smith earned his first test ton — and 24th test century overall in only 65 games — after a 12-month suspension for being involved in a ball-tampering scandal during the third test against South Africa in 2018. He reached his century by hitting Ben Stokes to the boundary, triggering lots of boos and plenty of applause from the Birmingham crowd.
Siddle, who was selected for his bowling, hit a valuable 44 before he sent a delivery from offspinner Mooen Ali to Jos Buttler at short leg.
England had reduced Australia to 154-8 at tea after the visitors chose to bat and reached 83-3 in overcast conditions at lunch. But Smith and Siddle started to dominate after tea when play resumed following a short rain delay.
“I thought we bowled fantastically well this morning, going a bowler down was tricky for the guys to keep going,” Buttler told Sky Sports. “But it was an exceptional innings from Smith and we will see what kind of score that is tomorrow.”
Broad took 5-86 to reach the 100 mark for Ashes wickets, and Chris Woakes got 3-58.
Jimmy Anderson, England’s record test wicket-taker, bowled four tight overs for only one run before the 37-year-old left the field in the morning and went for a scan on his right calf.
Earlier, Australian openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, out for a combined 10 runs, were easy to spot as players wore names and numbers on their shirts for the first time in test history. The pair walked out to chants of “Cheat, cheat, cheat,” with some England fans waving pieces of sandpaper. Bancroft was playing his first test since a nine-month suspension for ball-tampering. He was banned along with Smith and Warner, both of whom were suspended for a year.
Smith shared his first important partnership of the day — 64 runs with Travis Head — which ended with Head leg before wicket for 35 against Woakes on a day which had been dominated by lbw dismissals and reviews, including a successful one by Smith.
Australia holds the Ashes, the urn traditionally awarded to the winner of cricket’s oldest regular international series, but England goes into the five-test series after winning its first-ever World Cup title in the one-day format. It hasn’t lost an Ashes series on home soil since 2001.