World Cup focus turns to Smith and Warner as Australia face Afghanistan
New Zealand and Sri Lanka also meet at Sophia Gardens.
Steve Smith and David Warner will make their competitive returns for Australia on Saturday when they take on Afghanistan in both sides’ Cricket World Cup opener in Bristol.
The batting duo made their last official international appearances 15 months ago, following which they were handed year-long suspensions for their respective roles in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
What they said
Steve is one of the all-time greats by the time he will finish the game. There was never any issue about how he would bounce back, and the same with David. Australia captain Aaron Finch on Smith and Warner
New Zealand and Sri Lanka also meet at Sophia Gardens, a day after West Indies started their campaign with a thumping seven-wicket win over Pakistan at Trent Bridge in a game that lasted only 35.2 overs.
Chris Gayle’s rapid 33-ball half-century helped the Windies overhaul their paltry 106 victory target after their pacemen claimed all 10 wickets, with Pakistan crumpling to 105 all out amid a barrage of short-pitched deliveries.
World Cup snapshot
Ones to watch
There is no doubt about it: Warner and Smith. The pair have faced some hostile receptions during Australia’s warm-ups, with Smith even booed when reaching three figures against England last weekend, and it is highly likely the jeers will continue in Bristol. As two of the best at their craft, they will be eager to silence their detractors and, in order to do so, must deal with Afghanistan’s impressive spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi.
Friday’s top shot
In clubbing three sixes during a typically rapid innings, Gayle took his tally in the tournament to 40 maximums, moving clear of former South Africa batsman AB De Villiers. Gayle was rusty early on and only really got going in the fourth over with back-to-back sixes off the unfortunate Hasan Ali. The second was classic Gayle, who cleared his front leg and smashed the despairing Pakistan paceman back over his head.
New Zealand would appear to hold the whip hand over Sri Lanka, after beating them in six of their last seven completed one-day internationals. Sri Lanka suffered a 3-0 whitewash defeat in their most recent series earlier this year, with Ross Taylor making 281 runs at a staggering average of 93.66 and a strike-rate of 102.93.