SOUTHAMPTON: Steve Smith said he no problems being jeered by spectators as he marked his first match against England following a year-long ban for ball-tampering with a hundred at Southampton on Saturday.
Smith’s 116 was the centrepiece of Australia’s 297 for nine against England in a World Cup warm-up at Hampshire’s headquarters.
“I’m pretty chilled, everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” Smith told Sky Sports during the innings break when asked about the crowd’s taunts.
“I’m just happy to be back playing. Fortunately, I was able to contribute today and hopefully I can take this form into the World Cup.”
If the sound of Smith and team-mate David Warner being booed was a sign of things to come, England will hope the former Australia captain’s innings is not an omen for a season that includes both the World Cup and a five-Test Ashes series.
Smith and Warner only returned to international duty earlier this month after they both completed 12-month suspensions for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
The disgraced duo’s first match in England this tour was a hastily arranged, unofficial warm-up match against the West Indies on the nursery ground at Southampton on Wednesday.
But that fixture was played in front of fewer than 30 spectators whereas there were several thousand in the main arena on Saturday.
Warner was booed first by spectators on Saturday when he walked out to open the innings with captain Aaron Finch after Australia lost the toss.
‘Get ’em Stevie’
And when the left-hander arrived at the crease, one fan shouted: “Get off Warner you cheat.”
Warner’s dismissal for 43, caught in the deep by Jonny Bairstow off Liam Plunkett, was greeted by immediate cheers from England fans.
But there were more boos as he returned to the pavilion to be replaced by Smith, coming in with Australia 82 for two in the 17th over.
The BBC reported there were a few chants of “cheat, cheat, cheat”, although a lone Australia fan shouted “Get ’em Stevie!”.
There was, however, the customary round of applause from the crowd for a batsman reaching his fifty when Smith got to the landmark.
Long a thorn in England’s side, Smith went to 99 with a superb carved six over third man off Ben Stokes.
The next ball delivery saw Smith complete a 94-ball hundred, including eight fours, prompting yet more boos as well as clapping to acknowledge his century.
Smith’s innings ended in bizarre fashion when, off the penultimate ball of the innings, third umpire Joel Wilson ruled he’d been caught and bowled by Tom Curran off what looked to be a bump ball.
Earlier, injury-prone England fast bowler Mark Wood could only manage 3.1 overs before going off with what a team spokesman said was “left foot discomfort”.
Liam Dawson then split the skin on his right finger, with England saying the spinner would not bat on his Hampshire home ground.
World Cup favourites England, fresh from a 4-0 series rout of Pakistan, had gone into Saturday’s match without one-day international captain Eoin Morgan after he suffered a finger injury during fielding practice on Friday.
Morgan, however, is expected to be fit to lead England in the opening match of the World Cup against South Africa at the Oval on Thursday.