Steve Smith, who did not play the third Ashes Test due to concussion, is now set to return for next week’s fourth Test at Old Trafford. @AFP

Australia star Steve Smith was out for just 23 in his first innings since being felled by England fast bowler Jofra Archer and suffering concussion in the second Ashes Test.

Smith took to the crease in the three-day tour game at Derby on Friday, coming in with Australia 179-2.

His 38-ball knock ended when he sliced a drive off Matt Critchley, a leg-spinner whose previous 59 first-class wickets had come at an expensive average of 51.86. Hamidullah Qadri, running in from the cover boundary, held a well-judged catch.

Smith, who was in the middle for 47 minutes, struck two fours. But the only five deliveries he faced that weren’t from a slow bowler came from medium-pacer Anuj Dal.

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Smith kept his pads on after returning to the pavilion and soon afterwards headed into the nets with Australia opener David Warner, not playing against Derbyshire.

Warner, using the ‘dog-thrower’ device to simulate fast bowling, sent down deliveries to Smith, whose brief innings came on the same day as key England bowler James Anderson was ruled out of the rest of the Ashes with a calf injury.

Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, has not bowled in the series since breaking down with the injury after delivering just four overs in the first Test at Edgbaston.

This was former Australia captain Smith’s first match since being hit on his unprotected neck by a 92 mph bouncer from Archer during the drawn second Test at Lord’s.

Smith uses neck protector

But against Derbyshire he was batting with a stem guard neck protector on his helmet despite previously saying he felt uncomfortable using one.

His concussion injury meant Smith missed England’s dramatic one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley where Ben Stokes’s stunning 135 not out saw the hosts square the five-match series at 1-1.

But Smith is now set to return for next week’s fourth Test at Old Trafford. The absence of Smith was a huge blow to Australia in Leeds given their former captain’s sparkling form in his first Test series since completing a 12-month ban for ball-tampering.

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Smith scored two centuries — 144 and 142 — in Australia’s 251-run win in the first Test and 92 at Lord’s. His exit on Friday sparked a mini-collapse that saw Australia lose three wickets for 25 runs.

But after tea they were still able to declare on 338-5 — a lead of 166 runs — after batting for eight overs shy of the 100-over limit for the first innings of this match.

Critchley followed his dismissal of Smith by having Mitchell Marsh caught at extra cover for 74 on his way to 2-47 in 13 overs.

Cameron Bancroft was 36 not out and Marnus Labuschagne 39 not out at the declaration. Labuschagne took over from Smith as international cricket’s first concussion substitute at Lord’s and has made three successive Test fifties, including 74 and 80 at Headingley. At stumps, Derbyshire were 53-3 in their second innings, 113 runs behind.

Australia left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc, yet to feature in this season’s Ashes, pressed his claim for a recall with 2-16 in five overs.

Australia resumed Friday on 77 without loss, with Marcus Harris 52 not out and Usman Khawaja, captaining in place of rested skipper Tim Paine, 18 not out.

In order to accommodate Smith and Labuschagne in Manchester, Australia may leave out Harris and promote Khawaja to open with Warner. Khawaja averages 96.8 in the seven Test innings in which he has opened.

The only wicket to fall before lunch saw Harris run out for 64 when, having set off for a single, he was sent back late by Khawaja and failed to beat Dustin Melton’s throw from cover-point. Khawaja went on to make 72 before effectively yorking himself playing back to Dal.