Warner stars as Australia see off Afghanistan
Opener made an unbeaten 89 as Australia opened their World Cup campaign with a seven-wicket win.
David Warner underpinned Australia’s seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan in Bristol with a measured 89 not out from 114 balls on his and Steve Smith’s official international return.
Fifteen months on from the fateful ball-tampering affair, Warner eschewed his characteristic aggressive instincts but his efforts helped Australia negotiate a potentially tricky World Cup opener.
Smith, too, made a telling contribution with a fantastic run out of Mohammad Nabi as Afghanistan succumbed to 207 all out after 38.2 overs, but the former Australia captain was out for 18 with the finishing line in sight.
Smith miscuing Mujeeb Ur Rahman to short third man proved to be the penultimate ball as Glenn Maxwell thumped the spinner for four after his arrival to the crease to wrap up victory with more than 15 overs to spare.
Aaron Finch had threatened to overshadow the competitive comebacks of Warner and Smith with a brutal display of power hitting in his 66 from 49 balls but his dismissal led to his opening partner completing the job.
Warner was booed on his arrival to the crease – as was Smith – and again after reaching his half-century but he refused to be deterred as Australia made an ideal start to the defence of the crown they won on home soil four years ago.
Finch was contemptuous of Mujeeb as he took 20 from the teenager’s first two overs although Warner was more watchful, particularly against Hamid Hasan, who induced an outside edge from the left-hander only to see the ball fly wide of first slip.
Warner thumped Dawlat Zadran for four from a free hit but it was a rare attacking shot, though Finch made sure they did not fall behind the rate as he moved to a 40-ball half-century with a cut off Rashid Khan for four.
The Australia captain followed that up with a dismissive six over midwicket off the vaunted leg-spinner but he miscued opposite number Gulbadin Naib to Mujeeb running in from the deep extra cover boundary.
Warner, though, was in a determined mood and he was in no mood to surrender his wicket easily as he was content to rotate the strike and punish the odd wayward delivery.
A restrained half-century came off 75 balls, to a chorus of boos that rang around the stadium, before Usman Khawaja’s dismissal for 15 brought Smith to the crease, to louder jeers from those in attendance.
The heckles have been a regular feature for the pair since they arrived on these shores though Smith said following his warm-up century against England last week they were “water off a duck’s back”.
For a long time it seemed Warner and Smith would be in the middle at the end but Smith departed with three more required, leaving Maxwell to close the show in style when he powered Mujeeb over cover.
Afghanistan had earlier rallied from losing openers Mohammad Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazai inside the first eight balls, the pair both departing without scoring.
Mitchell Starc accounted for Shahzad with a fuller delivery that tailed in and Pat Cummins had Hazratullah caught behind as the pace duo made an immediate impression.
Rahmat Shah’s 43 led a recovery but they were in further trouble on 77 for five after Smith dived low to his left to stop Nabi’s cover drive before reflexively throwing to wicketkeeper Alex Carey to whip off the bails.
However, Najibullah Zadran led a fine counter-attack, with leg-spinner Adam Zampa coming in for some punishment from the unorthodox left-hander.
A reverse sweep for four, after missing an earlier attempt, served notice of Najibullah’s intentions before he later carted the leg-spinner for four-four-six-six en route to a 46-ball 50.
His departure led to further lower order resistance as Rashid took up the baton, taking 21 from a Marcus Stoinis over, including two audacious maximums.
Rashid took Afghanistan past 200 with another straight six, this time off Zampa, who had his revenge when he pinned his fellow leg-spinner in front as he collected his third wicket.
Cummins then took out Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s leg-stump to end the innings and finish as the pick of the attack with three for 40.