Steve Smith admits he did not know whether he would play cricket again after the ball-tampering scandal.
The 30-year-old was suspended for a year by Cricket Australia for the part he played in the plot to alter the ball in the Cape Town Test against South Africa in March 2018.
Smith struck 144 on day one of his comeback Test, the Ashes opener against England at Edgbaston, as Australia rallied from 122-8 to 284 all out.
“There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn’t know if I was ever going to play cricket again,” Smith said. “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’.
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“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.
Smith’s 219-ball knock underpinned Australia’s innings as he shared stands of 88 and 74 with Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon respectively for the final two wickets.
And, the former Australian captain believes his 24th hundred in red-ball cricket was one of his finest.
“It’s got to be one of my best hundreds,” Smith added. “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 (44) 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.”
David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were dismissed for single-figure scores, while the duo and Smith were heavily jeered by a hostile Birmingham crowd, a legacy of what occurred in Cape Town last year.
Smith had the last laugh, his century greeted with an appreciable amount of applause as well as boos, although he insists the crowd reaction does not faze him.
“It doesn’t bother me or motivate me,” he said. “I know I’ve got the support of the boys in the room and, for me, that’s all that really matters.
“They went berserk on the balcony when I got to my hundred and just looking up at them, it sent shivers down my spine.”
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