Steve Smith Makes 85 In Local Cricket Return And The Crowd Forgives Him

Sutherland Cricket Club is lucky if two seagulls and a pigeon show up to the first match of Sydney's first grade cricket season.

The BBQ at Glenn McGrath Oval in Sydney’s south is usually unmanned and unsausaged.

But this was no ordinary first match of the season.

This was the first competitive outing on Aussie soil for disgraced former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith, since receiving a 12 month ban from international cricket for ball tampering in March. 

On Saturday, the BBQ was sizzling, with more than 400 sausages sold early in the day and a queue dozens long. Also on fire -- much to the delight of locals --was Smith himself.

“C’mon Smudger, give the crowd what they want to see,” a member of the estimated 1500-strong crowd yelled early in his innings.

And he did just that. The elegant right-handed batter looked his usual assured self at the crease, compiling a largely flawless 85 off 92 balls -- including an enormous six over mid wicket. And he held the Sutherland innings together while wickets fell around him.

Crowds gather to watch Steve Smith bat during the match between Sutherland and Mosman at Glenn McGrath Oval in Sydney. IMAGE: Getty Images

Cricket enthusiasts like Deirdre Wallace absolutely loved it.

“He’s a local boy and he shouldn’t have done what he did, but he’s got to accept the consequences and I think everybody is enjoying seeing him back,” the Caringbah local said.

Wallace lives pretty much just over the back fence of the oval, and said she wouldn’t have come were it not for Smith.

“I saw it on the news, so I thought I’d come and have a look. The coffee’s no good, but it’s good to see Smith batting well.”

Diedre Wallace doesn't usually come to local cricket matches, but told ten daily this was no ordinary match. IMAGE: Ant Sharwood

They came from further afield too. Alex Riddle, a 22-year-old fourth grade cricketer from Wollongong, drove an hour north to catch a glimpse of his favourite cricketer in action.

“He hasn’t changed,” Riddle said of his hero. “I love the way he seems to have so much time.”

Both Riddle and Deidre Wallace believe Smith deserved the 12-month ban for his actions -- although both point out that cricketers from other nations received lesser sanctions for similar indiscretions. But they’re both equally willing to forgive.

“I think most people do feel sorry for him,” Wallace said.

The Steve Smith who batted for Sutherland today is the same man the ailing Australian cricket team will be super keen to have back, when he’s available again for international duty in 2019.

Keeping score the old-fashioned way.  IMAGE: Ant Sharwood

All his familiar little quirky mannerisms were on display. The pad scratch. The crotch pat. The little hops and arm swings between deliveries. But it’s the way he batted that reminded you what the national team has missed.

Smith looked in command at the crease. Not every ball came off the middle of the bat, but he looked a master at ease with his trade. His calling and running between wickets was crisp, and his shot-making was as innovative as ever.

READ MORE: Knocking Steve Smith For Enjoying Some Me-Time Is Not Cricket

READ MORE: Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland Announces Resignation

Above all, he held things together while his teammates fell to rush-of-blood shots trying to force the pace of the innings.

Meanwhile, several suburbs, a bay and a dozen or so beaches north of Caringbah, David Warner was also in great form for his club side Coogee in his return. The Aussie opener, who is also serving a 12 -month ban, brought up his century with a trademark leap of delight.

If Warner has been Australian cricket’s rock star in recent years, Smith has been its rock.

If today was any guide, he’ll be ready to assume that role again six months or so.

Feature Image: Getty Images                                                                                         

Contact the author asharwood@networkten.com.au