Steve Smith made his long-awaited return to top company overnight for the Rajasthan Royals against the Kings XI in their IPL clash at Jaipur.
His well-compiled 20 off 11 with a four and a six was cut short by what will probably turn out to be the catch of the tournament from the right-handed KL Rahul running 60 metres from mid off to end up diving to his left and with both hands snaring a magnificent take.
Smith needed a dismissal like that like a hole in the head, but he showed he’s back, and that’s the most important point.
He would have loved to match David Warner’s return to the big time for the Sunrisers Hyderabad with his 85 off 53 with nine fours and three sixes, but Smith will get more runs under his belt during the IPL in the lead-up to the World Cup.
They are both on $1.7 million contracts, right up there among the highest paid in the eight-team tournament.
That’s a far cry from a year ago when both were banned by the IPL for being involved in the ball-tampering saga in South Africa.
But thankfully their 12-month suspensions officially end on Friday, even though the IPL has given them both a very welcome early mark.
And it’s paying dividends for Australia.
The form of the top five of Warner, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Smith and Shaun Marsh will send shivers up the spines of their World Cup opponents. They are in awesome touch.
Finch has ended his virtual ten-month drought with back-to-back scores of 116 and 153*, an ODI career high; Khawaja has been the model of consistency with 104, 91, 100, 24 and 88; and Marsh has batted only twice for 91*, and 11*.
Interestingly, Peter Handscomb must play as keeper, so Marsh may yet be involved in a three-way battle with Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell for two batting spots. Time will tell, but it’s a strong position for selectors to call.
So far Warner and Finch have teed off with a combined 354 runs off 331 with 28 fours and 13 sixes.
Khawaja has been more of a steadying influence, getting on with it in compiling 407 off 457 with 39 fours and just three sixes, but hes’ been more content to turn over the strike to heavy-hitter Finch.
We know Smith will be well ahead of the balls-faced rate, which would be right in the mayor’s office for three out of Handscomb, Marsh, Stoinis and Maxwell to follow.
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are no rabbits with the bat, nor is Jhye Richardson depending on how he recovers from his right shoulder dislocation.
Regular scores of 300 are now a distinct possibility rather than a forlorn hope.
Let’s not forget Australia are the defending World Cup champions. And the way things are shaping, it will take a mighty side to topple them off the perch.