Australian cricketer Steve Smith says the 144 runs he hit in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston against England has "got to be one of my best 100s."
The 30-year-old was banned from international and domestic in March 2018 following an investigation launched by Cricket Australia into ball-tampering during a test series with South Africa. Smith was found to have brought the sport into disrepute.
Speaking yesterday after being bowled out by Stuart Broad after hitting 144 runs, Smith 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 it at one point. Particularly when I had my elbow operation. It was the day that 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 want to go again, I'm ready to play."
Smith was the last one out onto the crease to bat for Australia on the first day after being 122-8. "I'm sort of lost for words at the moment," the Australian said.
"I'm just really proud that I was able to help pull the team out of a bit of trouble. England bowled exceptionally well in the first two sessions. It was hard work out there. I was proud I was able to dig in through those difficult periods and put up a competitive total.
"It's got to be one of my best 100s. First Ashes Test match, the ball was doing a fair bit out on the middle. Had to work really hard, got beaten a few times but sort of let that go and concentrate on the next ball. Kept digging in.
"I know the first test of an Ashes series is always big. I didn't want to give my wicket up easily, I wanted to keep fighting. Fortunately, I was able to dig in today and get to a reasonable total."