Ashes 2019: Australia's Steve Smith says he has found his love of cricket again after century
Australia batsman Steve Smith says he has rediscovered his love for cricket after wondering if he would ever play again during a ban for his part in the ball-tampering scandal.
Smith marked his return to Test cricket by scoring 144 on the opening day of the Ashes series at Edgbaston.
"I'm really grateful to be in this position now, playing for Australia again and doing what I love," he said.
"I want to play for Australia and make people proud."
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Smith, then-captain of Australia, was banned from international cricket for a year for his part in a plot to rub sandpaper on the ball during the tour of South Africa in March 2018.
During his time away, he had surgery on his elbow and revealed that was when he was at his lowest ebb.
"There were times throughout the last 15 months where I didn't know if I was ever going to play cricket again," he explained.
"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, while Smith said the tampering incident in Cape Town was "all in the past", he was frequently reminded by the Edgbaston crowd, who booed throughout his innings, waved sandpaper and sang "you're gonna cry in a minute" - a reference to his tearful news conference in the wake of being banned and stripped of the captaincy.
"It doesn't bother me," he said. "I know I've got the support of the boys in the dressing room and, for me, that's all that really matters.
"They went beserk on the balcony when I got to my hundred and just looking up at them, it sent shivers down my spine.
"It's been a long time coming, getting another Test hundred, it was just a huge moment. I'm lost for words, I don't really know what to say."
Smith's innings was remarkable not just because of his personal circumstances, but for the way he dragged his team out of trouble.
From 122-8, Smith added 88 with number 10 Peter Siddle and then another 74 with last man Nathan Lyon.
Smith was on 85 when he was joined by Lyon but, after passing three figures, flayed the bowling to all parts to leave England with all nine fielders on the boundary.
"Today we saw one of the great, great innings," said former England captain Michael Vaughan.
"Where Steve Smith has come back from, after an emotional rollercoaster, for him to deliver this is incredible.
"This one innings is winning Australia the Test match."