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Steve Smith returns to top of Test batting ranks, ready to 'get over any little demons'

Australia are confident cricket brainiac Steve Smith, now officially the best batsman in the world once again, will make a successful Test return from concussion and conquer any mental demons created by his frightening bouncer blow.

Smith has reclaimed top spot on the International Cricket Council's Test batting charts on the eve of the fourth Ashes Test, which begins in Manchester on Wednesday.

Smith toppled Virat Kohli in the latest update despite skipping the third Test and Australia's second innings at Lord's, having been struck on the neck by a Jofra Archer bouncer.

The former skipper returned to the crease last week in Derby, batting for 47 minutes in a tour game, but didn't confront anything even closely resembling the threat posed by Archer.

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 Old Trafford this week, 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 Pattinsion.

Steve Smith lies on the ground after being hit on the neck. Source: Associated Press

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.

ICC TEST BATTING RANKINGS

1 - Steve Smith (904 points)
2 - Virat Kohli (903)
3 - Kane Williamson ( 878)

Australia's Steve Smith plays a shot off the bowling of England's Chris Woakes on day three of the 2nd Ashes Test cricket match between England and Australia. Source: Associated Press


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