Steven Smith shapes to slog sweep an Adelaide net bowler, down on one knee and eyeing off the imagined midwicket boundary. Despite swinging hard, he isn't close to getting all of it, letting out a frustrated cry as the ball skews up off the top edge and rebounds from the inside of the net.

Sunday's first T20I against Sri Lanka will be another first for Smith on his road back from 12 months out of the game. Not only will this be Smith's first T20I in more than three years, it will be his and David Warner's first international match at home since the expiry of their Newlands bans. In both senses, Smith is finding his way, although on the strength of his first net session at Adelaide Oval, the public adulation may return a little more easily than the T20 batting rhythm.

"It has been a while [since the last T20I]. My last game was the World Cup in 2016 against India, where Virat [Kohli] took the game away from us," Smith said. "It's going to be nice to walk out on Adelaide Oval on Sunday and play a T20 for Australia. They love it down here, you only have to look at the Big Bash crowds that the Strikers get, they come out in numbers, and hopefully it's no different this Sunday.

It's a game where you have to be ahead of the game and think on your feet. I usually do that reasonably well, so hopefully I can do that for this team
Steven Smith

"I'm pretty relaxed, I've been hitting lots of balls and feel really good, so just excited to get started and look forward to hopefully a successful summer."

The perception of Smith's relative lack of success as a T20I batsman has been driven partly by the greater achievements of others but primarily by absence: both of Smith from the Australian T20I team entirely in recent years, but also the lack of a chance to build some method and thinking through continual match play.

Smith is reckoned by the likes of Justin Langer and Tim Paine to be arguably the game's greatest batting problem solver. He has not had nearly enough recent T20I assignments to test himself.

"With the World Cup in about a year's time there's an opportunity to have that continuity and I think we've seen over the years that the T20 format's the one where guys have rested a lot and that'll probably change leading into a World Cup, I dare say," Smith said. "I think it's a great opportunity for the 14 guys that have been picked here to have that continuity and try to form a bond together and work towards hopefully all being part of a World Cup.

"It starts here this summer, we've got six games straight, which I think is really good, and 20-odd games before the World Cup, so an opportunity for guys to work together and gel as one. I haven't played a T20I for a while, but I've still played a lot of T20 cricket and playing in the IPL and things like that. I may not be as strong as some of the other guys. or can hit the ball as far, but I back myself in working the gaps, hitting boundaries and things like that.

"It's a game where you have to be ahead of the game and think on your feet. I usually do that reasonably well, so hopefully I can do that for this team."

As for future captaincy prospects, the question is not allowed to linger too long in the air before Smith swats it away, rather more definitively than his attempted slog sweep a few hours later: "Not on my radar at all. I'm pretty chilled, [Aaron] Finchy and Painey are both doing terrific jobs, so I'm enjoying playing and pretty chilled."

***

Warner advances down the wicket to Adam Zampa, keeps his head over the ball, and launches it clean and straight, bellowing "yes" as he runs with the shot, and signalling six with both arms raised as he reaches the other end.

Given some of his batting travails over the past three months, the sound of a solid connection was more than welcome to Warner, in environs where he has for long felt at home. Adelaide Oval was the ground where he made his very first T20 half-century for New South Wales against South Australia in January 2009, and at which he has subsequently carved out five further centuries while averaging comfortably better than 50 across the three forms of the game combined.

"I think that's one thing that we sort of forget about, what you have done and what you can do and what you're capable of doing," Warner said. "You get caught up in everyone saying you're out of form or you're not doing as well away from home and whatnot. You've just got to try and... that external noises, just don't let it get into your head. Negative thoughts are a very, very bad driver in anyone's mind, so you've got to keep being positive and don't buy into that."

Warner's words were the fruit of time out following a grim Ashes tour, the low point of a winter that had also featured strong performances in the IPL and then at the ODI World Cup. There was a sense that, for all his smiling visage, the constant baiting of English crowds, added to some outstanding bowling from Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer, had taken their toll.

You're only going to mentally cook yourself by going back into the nets if you're trying to refresh. For me it's about putting down the tools and focusing on other things
David Warner

"We knew what we were going to tackle over there and what we were going to face, it was about keeping a smile on your face and not letting anyone rattle you," Warner said. "Go back six or seven years and it probably would have rattled me, but this time you know what you're going to expect when you go there, the English team say the same thing when they come to Australia. So for us it's about focusing on the task ahead, playing good cricket and scoring runs."

Asked whether he had been afforded enough time to recover between a late English summer Ashes and an Australian international season beginning as early as October, Warner referred to the extended break enforced in the wake of Cape Town. "I had a long time off in the past year, which was great mentally," he said, "and then coming back into it you forget how busy you actually are. But that's all about trying to stay as fresh as you can mentally.

"Take your mind away from the game when you're not playing, and try to find gaps in your schedule to actually get away from the game a little bit. For me it's family, that's one thing I really, really love. You go away from work, you put your tools down, and you just chill out, be quiet. For me it's about spending time with my family, doing the normal father things that you do and be a husband. That's what I do and for us you don't pick up a bat.

"You're only going to mentally cook yourself by going back into the nets if you're trying to refresh. For me it's about putting down the tools and focusing on other things."

Picking the tools back up in the T20Is will also allow Warner to think about something other than how to cover his off stump against Broad, and after the year he's had, a few switch-hits might be just the thing he needs. "It wouldn't be my game plan if I wasn't playing those shots," he said. "I won't be reverse-sweeping the fast bowlers, but I'll be going out there and doing what I do best and that's try to put on a good start for the team and obviously put on a good show for the spectators."

Spectators who, on Sunday, will see Smith and Warner in Australian colours for the first time in more than 18 months.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig