Steve Smith has been a batsman on a mission since day one of this Ashes, even by his own formidable standards, and a blow to the neck has seemingly only strengthened that resolve.
Smith’s conviction on Wednesday, when the superstar declared he will not change anything while scoffing at suggestions Jofra Archer has the wood on him, suggested as much.
The former skipper’s uncharacteristically casual innings on day two of Australia’s tour game in Derby, where he made 23 on the slow pitch, did not.
But Smith has always been one to take it up a notch when the stakes go up; scores of eight and nine in Australia’s intra-squad match were followed by marathon net sessions and two centuries in the first Test at Edgbatson.
“In Birmingham, that’s the most determined I’ve ever seen him,” Pat Cummins said.
“He wants to be the match-winner every time … he’s relaxed but focused, he can’t wait to get out there next week.”
Fellow vice-captain Travis Head suggested Smith’s enforced rest may prove a “blessing in disguise” while hunting a 2-1 series lead at Old Trafford, where the fourth Test starts on Wednesday.
“The week off has probably done him some favours. He’s refreshed after a massive couple of months here, the World Cup straight into his,” Head said.
He’ll hit a 1000 balls a day, he’ll be ready to go.”
Cummins knows Smith well, having attended the former skipper’s wedding last year and been a source of support throughout his 12 months in exile.
The express paceman watched in awe from the non-striker’s end when Smith set the tone for the 2017-18 Ashes with an unbeaten 141 at the Gabba, dragging Australia to victory.
The 26-year-old has seen Smith foil plans and frustrate attacks around the world, doing it in such routine fashion that Steve Waugh recently likened the batting genius to a computer.
But former England captain Nasser Hussain is among those claiming a nasty scare at Lord’s will prompt Smith to alter his approach, subconsciously or consciously.
“Every batter has been hit and bruised, they’ve faced millions of short balls,” Cummins said.
“That wicket was a bit up and down. I doubt we’ll get anything like that again in this series.
“But he is the best batter in the world, you have to be resilient and find ways to get over things pretty quickly (to achieve that status). He’s done that a million times before, this will be no different.”
Five deliveries of Anuj Dal’s medium pace was the closest Smith came to a bouncer barrage in Derby.
It will instead be left to Cummins and other teammates to give the right-hander some searing short stuff in the nets and prepare him for Archer’s chin music.
“We normally let a few go in the nets. We’ll see in Manchester when we have a bowl there,” Cummins grinned.