Sydney: Steven Smith savoured an Ashes Test century on his home Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday to put Australia in a strong position for a 5-0 series clean sweep over beleaguered England.
It was the 24-year-old’s second hundred of the series and his third in Ashes cricket as he combined with the irrepressible Brad Haddin to shift the momentum Australia’s way after the home side was tottering at 97 for five.
Smith, who hit 115 off 154 balls, shared in an innings-turning stand of 128 with Haddin, 75 off 90 balls, to push Australia to 326 and have the visitors reeling at eight for one at first-day stumps.
“It’s my favourite place to play, so I’m absolutely delighted to have got a hundred out here in tough circumstances and get the team in a good position,” Smith said.
“I haven’t played with too many nerves in this series. I’ve felt quite good every time I’ve gone to the crease. Obviously I haven’t converted into big scores as much as I would have liked, but I’ve certainly felt good at the crease and today… I guess, it was my day.”
It was Smith’s first game at the SCG in 14 months and he relished reaching triple figures with a six and a four off leg-spinner Scott Borthwick to be acclaimed by the 45,352 Sydney crowd.
“It’s nice to be back at the SCG, I haven’t really seen a wicket like that before out here,” he said. “So it was certainly tough work early and you certainly felt one of those balls had your name on them if they got it in the right areas.
“That was the most pleasing thing, being able to get through those periods and be able to get those runs at the end.”
Smith reserved special praise for wicketkeeper Haddin, who, at 36, is playing some of the best cricket of his career and has been a highly-influential figure in this series.
Haddin, the bane of the English bowlers, went for his sixth score over 50 in the series and has accumulated 465 runs at 66.42 and has played a crucial role in rescuing Australia on a number of occasions in the one-sided Ashes.