Returning duo jeered but Aussies untroubled in opener

LONDON • Australia launched their World Cup campaign with an efficient victory over Afghanistan – and appeared totally unfazed by the hostile reception given to disgraced pair Steve Smith and David Warner.

A seven-wicket win in Bristol against the 10th-ranked nation in one-day international (ODI) cricket on Saturday set the defending champions on their way in the competition, though they know there will be tougher tests ahead.

Justin Langer’s players had their opponents on the ropes at five for two, but the Afghans rallied and reached 207, even though they failed to bat out their 50 overs.

While the five-time world champions, who next face the West Indies at Trent Bridge on Thursday, were far from their best in ODIs last year, they appear to be peaking at the right time as they chase a sixth Cup.

Their turnaround can be attributed to the return of Warner and Smith, who played their first official international matches after completing a one-year ball-tampering ban.

The duo were punished for their roles in the “sandpaper-gate” scandal, when Australia hatched a plot to alter the condition of the ball during a Test match in South Africa last year.

However, Warner showed little signs of rustiness, top scoring for Langer’s team with 89 not out as they reached their target with more than 15 overs to spare.

The former team vice-captain and former skipper Smith were subjected to jeers from the crowd after suffering a similar fate during last week’s warm-up match against England, while two fans even watched the game from a balcony dressed as sandpaper.

But leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who took three wickets, said Australia were prepared for barracking throughout the tournament.

He said: “We have spoken a bit how we are going to handle that situation.

“Obviously, we copped it in the warm-up game against England, too.

“But we are expecting it. And, to be fair, I think everyone’s handling it really well.”

Zampa also praised Warner ad Smith for shutting out the negative vibes and were just “getting on with the job”.

He added: “Personally, I don’t really hear the crowd to be honest. So if you can block it out, you don’t really hear it.

“As I say, the guys are handling themselves really well.

“We expected that we were going to cop it. You heard the boos today when Smithy went out there.

“Call it what you want, disrespectful, or just a part of the game.

“Either way, the way we as players are handling it has been great.

“If you let it get to you, I suppose that is when something will happen.”


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