BRISTOL, England (Reuters) - Australia’s David Warner showed little of his menacing hitting and brash in-your-face approach as he made his return to the international arena at the World Cup on Saturday.
But he has evidently lost none of his match-winning form.
The 32-year-old was back for a first official ODI outing after a year-long ban and produced a performance that appeared almost contrite yet highly effective as Australia began the defence of their World Cup crown with an easy seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan in Bristol.
Warner scored an unbeaten 89, overcoming early nerves and problems with his timing to grind out a match-winning innings in uncharacteristically timid fashion.
There were glimpses, however, of the aggression and swashbuckling approach that made Warner such a fearsome player before he was banned, along with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, for being involved in ball tampering in South Africa in 2018.
“It’s good to be back. It was a great win and good start for us. You’ve got to keep the ball rolling,” he said as he accepted the man-of-the-match award.
“I had nerves getting back into the camp and getting back into the full intensity of training but I was a bit more relaxed when Finchy started going. For us as batters, it’s about holding our nerve.”
Australia captain Aaron Finch took the lead as Australia chased down a modest target of 208, scoring 66 off 49 balls before becoming the first wicket to fall.
“Warner is very important to our side,” said Finch.
“He was struggling to time the ball in the first half, but the fact that he kept hanging in there was great for him. He did the job at the end.”
Warner’s runs came off 114 balls, with eight fours but no sixes. There was plenty of impressive running between the wickets, notably when Steve Smith joined him for a 49-run third wicket partnership.
It was also Smith’s first outing since his ban. He came to the wicket with the contest all but over, scoring 18 before being caught at short third man with just three more needed for victory.
Both Warner and Smith may no longer have a leadership role after ‘Sandpapergate’ but their experience of winning the World Cup four years ago makes them key to Australia’s chances of a fifth success in the last six editions.
“This team is a different one from the team back then, when we had a lot of players who had played more than 100 ODIs. But there is a great energy and great buzz about this team,” said Warner.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Tony Lawrence