Steve Smith’s incredible 13-year Aussie first
Australian batting star Steve Smith has returned to the top of the world already, topping the ICC World Test batting charts after just three innings.
After his 12-month ban for ball tampering, Smith returned to Test cricket during the Ashes like he had never left.
His 144 and 142 in Birmingham helped Australia to a win, while his 92 at Lord's had the former Aussie skipper on track for a third straight ton before Jofra Archer's bouncer struck, leaving Smith out of the fourth Test side.
He overtakes Indian captain Virat Kohli, who was only able to score 9, 51, 76 and a golden duck in the two-Test series again the West Indies.
The final innings duck allowed Smith to sneak past Kohli by one point on the ICC rankings, meaning Australia has the best batsman and bowler in Test cricket with Pat Cummins topping also topping the charts.
Smith had been the World's number one batsman between December 2015 until August 2018 when Kohli snatched the spot.
It's been 13 years since Australia have last held the top rankings in both categories when Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath topped their respective ranking ladders in March 2006.
HE'S BACK!@stevesmith49 returns to the top of the @ICC Test batsman rankings after a year out of the game, pipping Virat Kohli by a single point.— News Cricket (@NewsCorpCricket) September 3, 2019
It means Australia boasts the top-ranked batsman and bowler (Pat Cummins) for the first time since 2006.#SteveSmith #Kohli pic.twitter.com/UvXIOKl5Ci
The last time Australia had the No.1 Test batter and bowler in the world like they do today with Steve Smith and Pat Cummins was March 2006, when Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath topped the rankings— Samuel Ferris (@samuelfez) September 3, 2019
Steve Smith regains No. 1 spot in Test batting rankings. missed 16 months of Test cricket and return like a champion with scores of 144, 142 and 92. finest batsman across formats this generation. Congratulations champion @stevesmith49. #Cricket— Daniel Alexander (@daniel86cricket) September 3, 2019
The loss of the mantle of the best batsman in the world shouldn't worry Kohli however with the Indian skipper claiming other achievements with his team.
The 2-0 clean sweep over the Windies kicked off their ICC Test Championship well with Kohli also becoming the most successful Indian Test captain, passing former skipper MS Dhoni's record of 27 Test wins.
"It's a by-product of the team we have," he said. "Our bowlers are amazing. Shami was great, Ishant bowling his heart out, Jadeja bowling a long spell. Captaincy is just a 'C' in front of your name. It's a collective effort.
"For us, it's just the start of the Championship. Whatever's happened in the past is irrelevant. Look forward to keep continuing playing good cricket."
As for Smith, there is a hostile reception waiting for him at Old Trafford.
England veteran Stuart Broad has promised there will be no respite from Archer, who is "excited to continue that battle" after a public tit-for-tat between the express paceman and Smith.
Smith confronted a two-paced damp pitch during his first net at the ground, starting cautiously as he stood to one side while gauging just how uneven the bounce was.
The right-hander faced up but there was no sustained bouncer barrage from Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson.
Smith, as is his wont, was the last batsman to leave the nets after a 30-minute solo session with coach Justin Langer.
Langer, who suffered multiple concussions during his 105-Test career, admits there is always "a little voice on your shoulder" when facing chin music after a head knock.
"He would've thought long and hard about it. If anyone's going to get over any little demons, it'll be Steven," Langer said.
"He works the game out better than anyone I've ever met. He's faced lots of short-pitched bowling in his life … he should be right."
Captain Tim Paine agreed.
"He's been hit in the body, arm and head hundreds of times in his career. Nothing has changed … it's not new to him," Paine said.
Broad knows how a bouncer can create physical and psychological damage, having experienced recurring flashback nightmares after his nose was broken by a delivery in 2014.
"He's got a bit more skill than me with the bat, so it probably won't affect him," Broad said.
"Test cricket is a brutal sport … I'm sure when Steve comes in that Jofra will be in Rooty's ear, wanting the ball.
"It was a really tasty bit of cricket at Lord's. Smith was on 70 or 80, playing beautifully, and Jofra went from 84 miles per hour to 95 miles per hour. He was really charging in."
Broad hoped Smith developed a bit of rust during his enforced stint on the sidelines after starting the series with knocks of 144, 142 and 92.
"We've not bowled at him since Lord's and he's had a period without batting, which is a bonus," Broad said.
- with AAP