Birmingham: After scoring a fantastic 144 on his return to Test cricket, Australia batsman Steve Smith rated the knock as one of the best of his 24 centuries.
While the innings had all the hallmarks of a classic, it was the circumstances that it came in that made it more memorable for Smith, who last played a Test in March 2018, before serving a 12-month suspension for ball-tampering.
On a lively day one pitch at Edgbaston, England's seamers had reduced Australia to 122/8 in 44 overs and seemed set to wrap things up quickly, but Smith with help from Peter Siddle, who scored 44 at No.10, upset those plans, propelling the visitors to 284.
"Just really proud that I was able to help pull the team out of a little bit of trouble," Smith said after play on Thursday. "Obviously England bowled exceptionally well in the first two sessions and it was hard work out there, I'm just proud that I was able to dig in and fight through the difficult periods and get ourselves to a competitive total."
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"I think it has got to be one of my best hundreds, definitely - first Ashes Test match, the ball was doing a fair bit out in the morning, so I had to work really hard," he said.
"I got beaten a few times, but I just had to let that go and concentrated on the next ball and kept digging in. I know that the first Test for an Ashes series is always big.
I didn't want to give my wicket up easily, I wanted to keep fighting and, fortunately, I was able to dig in today and get ourselves to a reasonable total, I think," said Smith.
Smith also heaped praise on Siddle and Nathan Lyon (12 not out), with whom he forged sizeable partnerships of 88 and 74 runs respectively, an ICC report on Friday said.
"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, so to be able to get to my hundred and give him a really big hug and let all my emotions out - that was really special," Smith said.
Smith said that the contributions of the Nos.10 and 11 were a reflection of the hard work they had put in at training in a bid to hone their skills with the bat.
"Sometimes, you need your tail to dig in with you. Everyone gets to bat, so you might as well try and improve it, and to their credit, the bottom four and the bowlers that are on the bench have worked incredibly hard the last couple of weeks to try and find a game plan that works in England," he said.
"Try and get their defense in order and playing the ball really late, and all those kinds of things. It's been a big focus, because tail runs can change the course of a game, as we sort of saw today," Smith added.