Steve Smith made a remarkable comeback to Test cricket after being out of the international side for 15 months due to the one-year ban due to the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town as he smashed a century in both innings of the Ashes Test against England in Edgbaston on Sunday. Smith became the fifth Australian player after Warren Bardsley, Arthur Morris, Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden to hit a century in each innings of an Ashes Test. Bardsley was the first player to achieve the feat when he smashed 136 and 130 at The Oval in 1909 while Morris achieved the feat in Adelaide in 1947. Waugh, the former Australian skipper, was the last player to score two centuries in a Test in England when he hit 108 and 116 in Manchester in the 1997 Ashes Test. Hayden achieved the feat in the Gabba Test in 2002.
Smith had arrived at the crease with Australia having their backs to the wall on the opening day of the Ashes contest against England. The top order was blown away by Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad and they were left reeling at 122/8. The partisan crowd at Edgbaston was booing and jeering the Australian players, mostly David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft. However, Smith, playing in his first Test since the infamous ball-tampering scandal, produced a knock for the ages and smashed his 24th century and ninth against England as Australia were rescued to 284 all out at the end of day one. Smith shared an 88-run stand with Peter Siddle for the ninth wicket and a stand of 74 with Nathan Lyon for the final wicket.
Speaking after scoring his century in the first innings, Smith had said he did not believe he would play cricket again during the 15 months he was away from the game. "There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn't know if I was ever going to play cricket again. I lost a bit of love for it at one point, particularly when I had my elbow operation. It was really bizarre that it was the day I got the brace off my elbow, I found a love for it again. I don't know what it was, it was like a trigger that just said 'right I'm ready to go again, I want to play and I want to go out and play for Australia and make people proud and just do what I love doing'," Smith said.
In the second innings, Smith made a confident start again and shared a brilliant partnership of 130 with Travis Head, who hit a fifty. The partnership helped Australia stretch their lead near 150. Smith thumped boundaries at will off the pacers and also handled the spin of Moeen Ali and Joe Denly admirably. Smith neared his century and was stranded on 98 during the lunch break but on resumption, he immediately got to his landmark by creaming Stuart Broad to the deep extra cover fence for a boundary to bring up his 25th century.
This was Smith's 10th ton against England and he matched Waugh's feat as well, who hit 10 centuries against England. While Waugh took 46 Tests to score 10 hundreds, Smith achieved the feat in just his 24th Test against England. Smith is the eighth player to hit 10 or more centuries against a single opposition in Tests. Sir Don Bradman holds the record for the most centuries against a single opposition, with 19 against England in 37 Tests. Sunil Gavaskar of India is next on the list with 13 against West Indies, followed by Jack Hobbs' 12 against Australia and Sachin Tendulkar's tally of 11 against the same opponent. Kumar Sangakkara and Sir Garfield Sobers smashed 10 centuries against Pakistan and England respectively.
Smith's efforts could play a vital part in Australia gunning for a win and breaking their jinx in Edgbaston, having not won a Test there since 2001. Australia will be gunning for their first series win in England since Waugh led them to a 4-1 series win in the 2001 Ashes contest.