Steve Smith has received a warm welcome back to Australian cricket.
Steve Smith has received a warm welcome back to Australian cricket.

Smith makes 85 off 92 balls in return to Australian cricket

SMALL crowds were on hand in Caringbah and Coogee to witness Steve Smith and Dave Warner's return to Australian cricket.

Banned from international and first-class cricket, the pair made their return in Sydney's first-grade competition - the level where they first made names for themselves before rising to the heights of international cricket.

A few hundred spectators were at Glenn McGrath Oval to watch Smith line up for Sutherland, who batted first.

The crowd didn't have to wait too long to get what they wanted when Smith came into bat with his team on 1-65.

In his first game back on Australian soil since the ball-tampering scandal exploded in South Africa in March, Smith received a warm welcome from the crowd, with the spectators applauding every run the former Aussie skipper scored.

Some of the crowd at Caringbah's Glenn McGrath Oval to see the return of Steve Smith.
Some of the crowd at Caringbah's Glenn McGrath Oval to see the return of Steve Smith.

It was almost over before it began. Smith, on 12 off 10 balls, smashed a straight drive off Mosman captain Scott Rodgie, only for the ball to burst through Rodgie's hands.

Smith was finally dismissed for 85 of 92 balls, caught at mid-on after skying a late-over slog.

At Coogee Oval, Warner's Randwick-Petersham side were fielding first in front of a smattering of fans sprinkled around the ground.

Warner, who is still ranked number five in both the Test and ODI rankings, is set to face returning Aussie quick Josh Hazlewood and NSW Blues seamer Trent Copeland later on Saturday afternoon.

It is Warner's first grade cricket outing since 2013, while Smith hasn't been in the Sutherland team since round one of 2014-15.

Sutherland treasurer Tom Iceton said Smith had slotted straight back into life as a grade player.

"It was funny watching Steve when he got here early on Tuesday for the first practice season, he's shaking hands and introducing himself to young guys who are probably just starry-eyed," Iceton said.

"He's just dropped straight back into club life. I know he's looking forward to making the best of the situation, but we're very excited by it."

Iceton said having Smith at the club would help the younger players, particularly the rapidly rising Austin Waugh.

The ball-tampering scandal, which led to the 12-month suspension of Smith and Warner and nine-month ban of Cameron Bancroft, hasn't been a topic of discussion at the club, according to Iceton.

Steve Smith has scored 85 in his grade cricket return. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty
Steve Smith has scored 85 in his grade cricket return. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty

"I think he's come to terms with all of the fallout and moved on from what happened six months ago - certainly no one at the club has mentioned it," Iceton said.

"It's irrelevant to us now, it's done and dusted.

"I think he's just looking forward and making the most of the situation he's got. Last season Shane Watson played about a third of the season with us and it's the first time he's had an extended stint in grade cricket for many years and he loved it.

"He'd forgotten what grade cricket was like and he kept saying, 'Mate, this is fantastic, I just love it, it's such a relaxed atmosphere.'

 "Smithy will find the same and I think that's going to help him.

"He's preparing himself for the end of March when the suspension expires and then he's looking to get back in the Australian team for whatever the first opportunity is, but I think going about his cricket in the relatively relaxed atmosphere of grade cricket will be good for him.

"Once things settle down, and we're trying to minimise the circus like atmosphere of today, but once today's out of the way I think it'll be easier and we're all looking forward to seeing how he goes.

"We don't know how many games he's going to play at this stage but however long he is here, you just can't imagine. Imagine a couple of blokes making their debut for us today, aged 18, and they're walking out to play with the Australian captain, it doesn't get much better than that."

David Warner is itching to get back on the field with a bat in his hands on Saturday afternoon.
David Warner is itching to get back on the field with a bat in his hands on Saturday afternoon.

One of the debutants, 18-year-old Flynn Parker, was excited and nervous with the hype of the occasion and the coverage of Smith's grade return.

Glenn McGrath also presented him his first cap.

Flynn's brother Zac, 20, was one of the first spectators on the hill and said playing first grade alongside Steve Smith "means everything".

"This is kind of like a make-or-break situation for him. If he bowls as well as he can, there's a lot of people watching and they'll know who he is if he gets a couple of wickets," Zac said.

"If he plays really well today, it could be really good times in the future."

Speaking before play, Zac said he hoped Smith would score a 50, something with which the Aussie star obliged.

"It'd be good to see him even get past 50 and see him bat again because we're not going to see him bat on TV again for a while to come now," he said.

"I thought it was a bit harsh for Steve - 12 months is a bit too harsh. A couple of games, maybe six months but 12 months is a long time.

"It's a shame because he was playing so good for Australia and there are a lot of young kids who want to go see Steve Smith bat and can't do that for 12 months."



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