With the world’s top-ranked batting crown freshly stripped from his scalp, Steve Smith has emphatically reminded the England team and public exactly how he rose to that position in the first place.
The 26-year-old’s magnificent, unbeaten 129 set the foundations for an Ashes fightback for Australia as they marched to 1-337 by stumps on day one of the second Test at Lord’s.
Smith’s golden summer against India, which included four centuries at an average of 128.16, carried him to the top spot on the International Cricket Council’s batting rankings in glorious fashion.
But his relatively short reign ended last week when South Africa’s AB de Villiers snatched the title back following Smith’s twin offerings of 33 in the Ashes opener.
Those meagre efforts seemingly cemented England’s belief that the 26-year-old’s unorthodox technique would be brought undone this Ashes.
Former England offspinner Graeme Swann said as much before a ball had even been bowled, when he said Smith wouldn’t “score runs at three if (the ball) is swinging” and he hoped “for England’s sake that he’s a flash in the pan”.
The days of Smith being a flash in the pan appear to have been left in the dust long ago.
With England spearhead Jimmy Anderson hooping the Dukes ball, Smith showed the calm and confidence which typified his demolition of India.
The right-hander’s homespun technique was rarely tested, as he produced his full array of shots: pulls off Wood, whipping cut shots off Anderson and a beautiful straight drive from Joe Root that swiftly lifted him into the 90s.
Soon after, he rocked onto his back foot to pull Anderson away through midwicket for four to reach his tenth Test century.
He insists the loss of the top ranking wasn’t on his mind as he belted England to all parts of the home of cricket, but something clearly made this milestone a special one.
The youngster roared to skies and punched the air, before raising his bat to all corners of the ground.
“I haven’t had a great run at Lord’s with the bat in my first couple of games I’ve played here,” Smith said.
“It was something I really wanted to rectify, particularly after last week.”