The start of the 2019 Ashes series very much lived up to its billing with England and Australia serving up a fantastic day of cricket in the first Test at Edgbaston.
In the end, it was a day which was completely dominated by Steve Smith with the Australian batsman marking his return to Test cricket after a one-year absence with one of his greatest innings ever.
Joe Root’s men made an electric start with the ball despite losing the toss and they had Australia on the ropes at 122-8 before Smith weaved his magic wand at Edgbaston.
The former Aussie skipper unsurprisingly copped plenty of abuse and boos from the Edgbaston crowd on Friday but he silenced them in style with a 144-run knock that helped the visitors ultimately post a challenging 284 in their first innings.
Here, we take a closer look at Smith’s epic Test comeback at Edgbaston.
Balls faced: 219
Smith arrived at the crease in just the eighth over of the day after Australia’s openers fell early, and he could only watch on haplessly at the start as wickets kept falling at the other end.
The visitors were reeling at 122-8 before Smith turned the tide with an epic display that turned the Edgbaston boos into loud applause at the end. He forged a valuable 88-run ninth-wicket stand with Peter Siddle before bringing up his ninth Ashes ton and 24th overall in the format.
The right-hander was the last Aussie batsmen to be dismissed but not before he had performed one of the greatest rescue acts in Ashes history.
The right-hander absorbed all the pressure at the crease despite the chorus of boos that greeted him with every delivery and helped revive Australia’s fortunes through sheer focus and grit.
He very rarely went for any expansive strokes with barely any shot played in the air while his defense was rock-solid as ever despite the unorthodox technique. The only time Smith took the aerial route before reaching a triple-digit score was when he slammed Moeen Ali for a straight six down the ground.
Unlike David Warner, he did not make the mistake of not opting for a review when trapped lbw on the pads by Stuart Broad and his decision was vindicated with the DRS reversing the on-field decision in the end.
144 - Steve Smith has a first innings Test average of 79 for @cricketcomau and displayed immaculate control during his knock (144) at Edgbaston, despite frequently losing partners early on. Fightback. #Ashes pic.twitter.com/qbrg52MuJy— OptaJim (@OptaJim) August 1, 2019
There isn’t too much that Smith got wrong on Friday with the right-hander in a completely different class to the rest of Australia’s batsmen. It was only when he was batting with last man Nathan Lyon that Smith finally unleashed the shackles and took the game to the England bowlers.
The last hour of the day was when he lived dangerously at the crease but it was all in the pursuit of some important runs for Australia.
VERDICT – 10/10
It was a colossal innings of defiance from Smith in a cauldron of pressure at Edgbaston and it was one which arguably restores his credentials as the best Test batsman in the world.
The 29-year-old was reveling in the pressure and occasion by the time the day wound down after battling for nearly the entirety of the 90 overs at the crease. His knock averted a disastrous start for the Baggy Green in the Ashes and has instead shifted the momentum of the game towards the visitors heading into day two.
He has hurt England plenty of times in the past in the Ashes but his ton at Edgbaston will definitely go down as the best of his nine centuries against the Aussies’ arch-rivals.
Holding back the tears: that really is a special century from Steve Smith. What a player.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 1, 2019
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