The Ashes 2019 – First Test, Day 1: Celebrating Smith and a history-defining knock

Sport is a rollercoaster. Seeing an exhausted and emotion-filled Steve Smith slowly raise his head to swing his bat in celebration, cricket took on the healing role.


Just hours earlier, the predictable nature of an English Ashes series rendered Australia inconsolable. For all of the talk, for the controversial nature of the team selection (Siddle instead of Hazlewood or Starc – really?), Broad became the pantomime villain again with an early flurry of aggressive bowling. Head played an unexpected counterattacking innings, striking crisply and proving he had settled into the test arena. The lack of bounce on English pitches suited him. His drives were solid, elbow bent to the cloudy sky. His cut shots looked way safer now there was no sharp bounce to see it fly down to third man. But his leg side play to in-swinging bowling wasn’t up to Woakes’ standard. Wade couldn’t handle it either, and before Australia knew it Paine, Pattinson and Cummins had all meekly surrendered their wickets to a simple bowling plan. Bowling full at the stumps and letting the conditions do the work was proving the Aussies’ undoing once more.


But throughout this tsunami was Smith. His jittery approach was oddly relaxing for the casual Aussie supporter, sitting up on the couch or debating the finer side of the gentleman’s game over a cool ale. The headband said he was prepared for a fight. He got one. In classic Smith style, his wristy drives were dazzling and his flicks off his legs were demoralising for the frustrated Poms. It had only been a year and a bit, but bowlers still hadn’t learnt to resist the temptation of not bowling it at the exposed stumps. Steve would just clip it away with delicate ease.


All the premier batsman needed was a partner willing to stick fat, and Siddle was happy to play the part. The experience of the elder paceman knew how to play the English conditions. He ticked the score along nicely due to some solid drives, but the glory wasn’t to be his. Smith was the constant, the rock in the deep tide. His leaves only became more exacerbated. When giving out LBW off a leave, he belied the hearty yells of the Edgbaston crowd to immediately challenge it. His knowledge of his own off stump proved supreme, and his “Wait on, not now” calls for the next few hours had an added element of consternation. Every minute, every leave and every nudge to the deep square leg boundary was another jab to the English hearts expecting to have rolled Australia for 120.


The score passed 200, a minor passmark reached. Now 250 and then 300 were on the agenda for the Aussie first innings to be labelled a success. In terms of momentum, anything over 250 could see them ahead of the game. So Smith forged on, bludgeoning the tiring English attack who were without the injured Anderson. Broad was the pick of the bowlers, but couldn’t break through the mental force that was Smith. His lay-off had just given him more impetus to stay in and thwart the Poms. The need to pick off the bowlers and slowly accumulate runs had been built up since Cape Town. And now was the master’s time to unleash.


In the afterglow of it, this ton is one of the best test cricket has seen. Due to the circumstances, both external and present at the game, Smith showed a level of concentration that was paramount. His judgement of when to leave was always correct, his shot selection as impeccable as it has always been. The quirks of his technique were celebrated even more, and often sent the Dukes ball flying to the boundary rope. When he carved Stokes for a wonderful off-drive boundary to reach the milestone, the emotion weighed him down. The profound look he gave when rising his chin to the partying Australian dressing room summed it all up. Not far removed from the face that broke into tears a year and a half ago, Smith understood how important this century was to giving back what he had taken away from his country. Now the burden had been removed and Smith stands as the forefront of Australian cricket once more.


His next 41 runs were breathtaking – the Twenty20 nous he has shown in spurts on full display. Ali was a victim of Smith’s brutal assault on spin. He pushed the total up to 284 with some help from Lyon, placing momentum into the hands of his fast bowlers and urging them to take the chance he had worked tirelessly to give them.


Where will this century stand in the annals of history? One thinks the result of the test match, and the series, will determine it. Regardless it’ll be one of the finest, a where-were-you moment of Australian cricket. But if this inspires Pattinson, Cummins and co to a demolition job on England and a further series victory overseas, then Smith’s knock could be known as the point in history that changed Australia’s English fortunes.


Australia – 284 all out (80.4 overs)

Smith 144                                                                               Broad 5/ 86

Siddle 44                                                                                Woakes 3/ 58

Head 35                                                                                  Ali 1/ 42


England – 0/ 10 (2 overs)

Burns 4 not out

Roy 6 not out


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  1. Keiran Croker says

    Nice summary Sean. From over here at Edgbaston it was an enthralling and enjoyable day. Great banter and interchange between the supporter groups and players. Mostly in good nature except for the predictable booing of the Sandpaper Three.
    At 8/122 I was thinking it’s a long way to come to see your team humiliated. By end of day I was feeling privileged to be here to see a genius of an innings from Smith. His release of emotion on passing a hundred was palpable and matched from the roar from the green and gold segment of the crowd which at least drowned the boos from the Hollies Stand in my view.

  2. The boos were drowned out by the BOO-HOOS

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