London: Steve Smith returned to international cricket to a chorus of boos but he walked off the pitch at the Oval to a standing ovation after a summer of Ashes redemption. The former Australia captain enjoyed a remarkable series in England, scoring a total of 774 runs in just seven innings and played a pivotal role in his side’s two victories in the drawn series. The catch by Ben Stokes that sent Smith on his way on Sunday ended an astonishing run of scores — 144 and 142 at Edgbaston, 92 at Lords, 211 and 82 at Old Trafford, and 80 and 23 at the Oval.
The 30-year-old made his official return to international cricket in June at the World Cup after serving a year-long ban for ball-tampering and was booed by the crowd in Bristol. Smith had a decent campaign in the 50-over showpiece but did not set the world alight as Australia reached the semifinals, where they were beaten by eventual champions England.
But he changed gear when the Ashes started, seemingly hungry to make up for lost time as he dominated the England attack, making two centuries in Australia’s comfortable win in the first Test at Edgbaston. Asked when he felt he was back to his best, an exhausted but “proud” Smith said it was after his first innings at Edgbaston, when he rescued his side, who had stumbled to 122-8. “That gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “That was probably my favourite innings of the whole series that I played.
“The first Test match, as we know, is always incredibly important in an Ashes series and to sort of pull the team out of a bit of trouble at the time and give me that confidence straight up that I could slot back in and perform, that gave me a lot of confidence.
“It was a long 18 months out of the game and I’ve got a lot of people to thank, in particular my wife.”
Smith’s series was interrupted after he was felled by a Jofra Archer bouncer in the second Test at Lord’s, forcing him to miss three innings.
But he returned at Old Trafford to make a monumental double century in another victory for Australia. — AFP