Steve Smith becomes second fastest player to reach 24 Test centuries

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Australia batsman Steve Smith admitted there was a period during his ball-tampering ban where he wondered if he would ever play cricket again after confounding the boo-boys with a defiant Ashes century.

The former captain’s majestic 144 formed the backbone of a total of 284 all out on the opening day of the Specsavers series, helping Australia recover from a perilous 122 for eight after they had decided to bat first.

After appearing in his first Test since a 12-month suspension for his role in the much-publicised ‘sandpapergate’ scandal, Smith opened up on falling out of love with the game as he recovered from elbow surgery earlier this year.

He said: “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’.

“I’ve never had those feelings ever before, I didn’t have a great love for the game, it was there for a little while and fortunately that love has come back.

“I’m really grateful to be in this position now, playing for Australia again and doing what I love.”

England looked to be in the box seat in mid-afternoon at a raucous Edgbaston, but Australia added a mammoth 162 for their final two wickets as Peter Siddle (44) and Nathan Lyon (12no) showed resolute application – albeit against a depleted bowling attack shorn of James Anderson because of a calf injury.

England v Australia - 1st Specsavers Ashes Test: Day One

Smith, though, was the headline act, his 219-ball tour de force including 16 fours and two sixes, as he brought up a 24th Test ton and ninth against England.

In doing so, the controversial figure became the second fastest batsmen to reach the milestone.

Smith's 24th Test century came in his 118th innings, which is only beaten by Don Bradman, who reached the landmark in remarkably just his 66th innings.

The Australian has overtaken legends of the game in Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar, who took 123 and 125 innings respectively.

England v Australia - 1st Specsavers Ashes Test: Day One

He said: “It’s got to be one of my best hundreds. It’s been a long time coming but I’m sort of lost for words, just really proud that I was able to help pull the team out of a bit of trouble.

“I know the first Test of an Ashes series is always big, so I didn’t want to give my wicket up easily, I wanted to keep fighting and fortunately I was able to dig in and get ourselves to a reasonable total.

“I thought Peter Siddle did a magnificent job, that partnership we were able to form, and Nathan Lyon as well, he was magnificent.

“He actually said to me ‘that’s the most nervous I’ve ever been out in the middle batting’. To be able to get to my hundred and give him a really big hug and let all my emotions out was pretty special.”

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