David Warner and Steven Smith, who had been banned from playing international and domestic cricket for 12 months by Cricket Australia for their roles in the Newlands ball-tampering incident, marked their returns to grade cricket in Sydney with a 98-ball hundred and a 92-ball 85 respectively on Saturday.
Warner, turning out for Randwick-Petersham in the NSW premier cricket competition, reached the milestone when he clipped St George’s Josh Hazlewood, who was returning from injury, behind square leg. He celebrated his century with his trademark leap in front of his family. Smith fell 15 short of a hundred for Sutherland, in his first match after returning from an abdominal strain that had sidelined him from Barbados Tridents’ last three matches in the Caribbean Premier League.
Former Australia allrounder Shane Watson was set to team up with Smith at Sutherland but a calf injury forced him to pull out of the game. Watson spoke glowingly of the crowd – reportedly more than 1000 were in attendance at Glenn McGrath Oval.
“To be able to see so many people come along to a grade game is incredible,” he told the Canberra Times. “We see the crowds that come along to a Sheffield Shield game or a JLT Cup [game] as well, it’s nothing compared to this. It’s very impressive.
“The support he [Smith] got today shows everyone makes mistakes and that people do forgive. How Steve has handled it is how you’d expect from someone who cherishes playing for Australia; appreciates the privilege that he’s had. This is just another step along the way for him most importantly getting back in the Australian team.”
Sutherland captain Williams, who shared a 50-run stand with Smith, said: “Obviously it was set up ideally for Steve to come in and control the innings. The atmosphere just kept building up and up as the innings went on.
“The noise they made. The anticipation when they were clapping us along. The long pause when the wicket fell for Smithy as he was coming down to the gate is something you’re not used to every week.”
Warner and Smith will be pleased to have scored runs after particularly lean stints in the Global T20 Canada and the subsequent CPL. They will continue to play grade cricket and are set to go head-to-head at Coogee Oval in November. They will not feature in the Sheffield Shield, though, after New South Wales opted against challenging the ban imposed by CA.