LANCASHIRE all-rounder Tom Smith was delighted to end his year-long injury nightmare with a return to action for the Red Rose.
Smith, who handed over the Lancashire captaincy to Steven Croft after just one game in charge last year because of a serious back injury, played for the county in their two-day friendly with champions Yorkshire at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
The match eventually finished in a draw but Smith, from Chorley, bowled nine wicketless overs on the first day and made 31 from 105 balls with the bat on day two.
"It was almost like that pleasure-pain thing,” Smith said after his first day in the field since last April.
"It was an absolute joy to be back playing again, but there was pain at spending a day in the field!
"It was just great to get out there again and play some cricket.
"It’s been a long year with lots of ups and downs, but I’m back on the field playing and back bowling, which was my main concern."
Smith was full of praise for his teammates who helped him through his return to action.
"The help all the lads have given me was top-drawer. There was a really good atmosphere out there on the pitch," he said.
"I’ve come off feeling good. In the second spell, I felt really good actually. We’re still not rushing it. It’s day by day and not trying to push it too much.
"To come out on grass and spend a day in the field on top of that, it was a good test for my back and would it stand up to it. So far, so good."
Lancashire head coach and cricket director Ashley Giles was pleased to see Smith back in action.
"It’s been a rough year for Tom, and just to be out here is great from where he was. To be playing cricket now is a huge boost," he said.
"I thought he batted well and came through bowling really well. He’s a bit stiff, but that is to be expected.
"Overall, I’m chuffed to pieces to have him back in the team because he adds massively to everything that we do."
Yorkshire made 313-6 declared on day one, with the Red Rose responding with 256-6 on Tuesday.
"Having the opportunity to play against the best team in the country has been really good for us," said Giles.
"It just gives us a measure of where we are going into the season after a lot of hard work in the winter.
"I know every time Yorkshire play Lancashire, it’s competitive. I’m learning that pretty quickly. But the result in itself is irrelevant really.
"It’s having the opportunity to play outside against quality opposition, and I think we’ve learnt lessons already."