LONDON • Former captain Steve Smith has claimed playing against England was like "Christmas every morning" after becoming only the fifth Australian to make two centuries in the same Ashes test.
On his return to Edgbaston for the first time in 16 months, there was some doubt how the batsman would fare against the hosts.
But within two innings, Smith's back-to-back centuries has seen him move level with former skipper Steve Waugh on 10 Ashes tons, but from just over half the number of tests and innings.
Hosts England lost the first Ashes test by 251 runs after being bowled out for 146 in their second innings yesterday.
"I have never doubted my ability," Smith said. "To score two hundreds in a match in a first Ashes test is incredible. I have never done it in any form of cricket. It is special. I've loved these last four days... it has been a dream comeback."
He was stripped of the captaincy and handed a 12-month ban by Cricket Australia after teammate and opener Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera attempting to scuff up the ball with sandpaper during the Test in South Africa in March last year.
Along with David Warner, the trio were banned for their part in the incident, returning to Test action only last Thursday. While the former vice-captain has endured his third-worst return in Tests in which he has batted twice, Smith has picked up where he left off.
"When he goes out to bat it's almost like he's in a trance-like state," Waugh said. "He knows exactly what he's trying to do, exactly what the opposition are trying to do and he analyses every ball - it's like a computer, he spits out the answer."
What set both of Smith's innings in Birmingham apart was how few chances he offered England.
Even without injured strike bowler James Anderson, England still possessed options in veteran Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes - fresh from career-best figures in his last Test - yet Smith has looked unflappable in the face of a hostile crowd that has been unrelenting with its boos.
However, scoring two such innings under pressure after 16 months away from red-ball cricket was not something that came without hard work.
"I hadn't faced a red ball in a long time, so it was about finding a rhythm and getting out of white-ball mode," Smith added. "I don't change a great deal, but there are little things like the way I hold my bat, or how I move across the crease.