MELBOURNE – After an 18-month exile from test cricket, Steve Smith's defiant century on day one of the Ashes series restored the former Australian captain to hero status in the eyes of a grateful nation on Friday.
Jeered by a hostile Edgbaston crowd throughout the opening day of the first test, Smith's brilliant 144 dragged his side from a position of peril to the safety of 284 all out, with England 10 for no loss in reply by stumps on Thursday.
Smith's last test against South Africa at Newlands ended in disgrace, when he, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were sent home to face an angry public after the shocking revelations of a plot to alter the ball's condition with sandpaper.
All was forgiven in the Australian media on Friday, as newspapers hailed the return of the saviour to red-ball cricket amid a frosty reception from the Edgbaston terraces.
“It was like he never left. It made you wonder how the team ever coped without him,” The Australian's cricket writer Peter Lalor wrote.
“His triumphant return came in the nick of time for rarely had his team needed him so.”
Sydney-based newspaper Daily Telegraph proclaimed it one of the “all-time great Ashes hundreds”.