It's come about five months later than expected, but tonight Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, perhaps the two best batters in the world, resume their run-scoring rivalry.

Kohli and Smith were set to headline this summer's blockbuster Domain Test Series between India and Australia but when Smith was suspended for 12 months for his involvement in the Cape Town scandal a year ago, fans were deprived of seeing the two titans go head-to-head.

Four years earlier the pair smashed batting records, scored eight centuries and hundreds of runs between them in a 2-0 victory to Australia in a series that marked their Test captaincy debuts.

With Smith out of action this summer, Kohli led India to their first Test series win on Australian soil, an achievement the passionate skipper rates as one of the highest in his decorated career.

But tonight the pair will meet in the Indian Premier League when Smith's Rajasthan Royals host Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore in Jaipur. Both sides are desperate to record their first win, having each lost their opening three games.

Neither player has hit their straps in the tournament to date – Kohli's 46 the only score of substance between the two players – and both right-handers will want to put a significant score on the board to get a maiden win for their team this season.

The last time Smith and Warner squared off was in the IPL two seasons ago, when the Australian - representing defunct franchise Rising Pune Supergiant - scored 45 in his side's 61-run win over RCB, who were restricted to 9-96. Kohli made 55.

In Smith's absence, Kohli has risen to the top of the Test batting rankings and is widely considered the best batsman in the world across five-day, 50-over and T20 cricket.

That was the assessment of Test great Ricky Ponting, who said last July that Kohli was the premier batter on the planet, but only because Smith was forced to sit on the sidelines.

"Right now, he (Kohli) is because Steve Smith is not there," Ponting said when asked who is the No.1 batter in the world.

"(But) if Steve Smith was playing now, I'd have him as the number one player in the world.

"That's how high in regard I hold Steve Smith – what he's done the last three or four years with his game and (he’s been) able to lead an Australian team to so many wins the way he has (batted).

"The Ashes summer last year was just some of the best and purest batting as you're ever going to see.

"To do it on the big stage in an Ashes series, and to do it on the first day of an Ashes series when it counts the most, says a lot about him."

Smith scored 687 runs at 137.4 against England in the 2017-18 Ashes as his side regained the urn with a 4-0 series win.

But in the year Smith was out of international cricket, Kohli posted 10 centuries in 40 matches across all formats as India maintained their status as one of the best, if not the best overall, cricketing nation.

Now Smith’s suspension is up, he has the chance to reclaim the throne he lost to Kohli, with his first step the IPL before the World Cup and Ashes in England.