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24 Mar 2023, Edition - 2810, Friday

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David Warner fires as he and Steve Smith make unofficial returns to Australian side

The Guardian


Allan Border Field on Monday played host to a familiar sight, if one not seen for over a year, as Steve Smith and David Warner were both warmly welcomed back into the fold in a tight World Cup warmup victory against a New Zealand XI.

Having completed 12-month bans for their roles in last year’s ball tampering scandal, the duo continued their reintegration into the national setup in the unofficial game in Brisbane.

Warner, batting at No 3, started nervily but soon settled and brought some of his recent IPL form to the national side on his way to 39, while Smith, who replaced him at the crease, made 22 before being caught behind.

In starkly different scenes to what they should expect in their 1 June World Cup opener in England, Australia were clapped onto the field by the healthy crowd as one fan yelled out “welcome back Smithy”.

The hosts were cruising early thanks to Warner’s bright innings but were suddenly exposed when Smith edged behind with Australia still needing 89 to win.

It took some late hitting from Nathan Coulter-Nile (34) – and a tense 11-run final wicket partnership between Adam Zampa and Jason Behrendorff that featured several big shouts for lbw – for Australia to scrape home with one wicket and 10 balls in hand.

Shaun Marsh (15) – in the side at Glenn Maxwell’s expense – Marcus Stoinis (15) and Alex Carey (2) all failed to seize the moment as shadows stretched across Allan Border Field.

Earlier there were no heckles or abuse from the good-natured crowd of 1,200 in an atmosphere starkly different to that predicted when Australia opens its World Cup defence in England on 1 June.

Warner started nervously – he was dropped at gully off his third ball and almost popped a catch to point off his first ball – after Usman Khawaja (4) was bowled from the fourth ball of the innings.

But he exploded to life once scurrying through to get off the mark, pulling a six over midwicket and peppering the boundary between point and mid-off with a series of immaculately-timed drives.

His impressive innings was cut short on 39, top edging a reverse sweep to end a crisp 77-run stand with Aaron Finch (52).

It was a brief but compelling case from Warner, as coach Justin Langer remains coy on which two of Finch, Warner and Khawaja will face the new ball against Afghanistan on 1 June in Bristol.

Warm applause followed Warner to the crease but it was nothing on the reception Smith received as he replaced him in the middle.

Mitchell Starc (pectoral muscle) was rested while Kane Richardson, who isn’t in the squad, went wicketless from seven tidy overs when given the chance to press his claims for inclusion if Jhye Richardson (shoulder) is unable to prove his fitness.

Pat Cummins, Berendorff and Coulter-Nile all took three wickets against an under-strength Kiwi unit missing regular skipper Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Trent Boult – all still on IPL duties in India.

Cummins took two wickets in the first over before a 137-run stand between Will Young (60) and Tom Blundell (77) ensured there was scoreboard pressure on the hosts.

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