Bristol, June 1: After more than a year away from international cricket, David Warner enjoyed a dream return as he ushered Australia to a routine seven-wicket win over Afghanistan in their Cricket World Cup opener.
Warner and Steve Smith finally made their long-awaited comebacks in Bristol on Saturday, representing their country in an official match for the first time since they completed 12-month bans for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal that marred Australia's 2018 tour of South Africa.
The opener could hardly have asked for a more ideal day.
Facing a modest target after Afghanistan had been limited to 207, Warner batted patiently and overcome a few early wobbles to score 89 from 114 balls, a knock that underpinned the simplest of chases.
Skipper Aaron Finch also impressed with 66 from 49 deliveries, while Smith - who contributed a run-out and a catch in the field - looked set to see Australia over the line alongside Warner, only to fall for 18 with three runs required.
Australia made it home with 15.1 overs unused, Glenn Maxwell clobbering a four off Mujeeb Ur Rahman immediately after Smith had been dismissed.
Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa had earlier taken three wickets apiece, with Afghanistan scrambling to 207 thanks largely to 51 from Najibullah Zadran, 43 from Rahmat Shah and an enjoyable 11-ball 27 from Rashid Khan.
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After a lengthy absence from the highest level, it was perhaps unsurprising that Warner lacked fluency early in his innings.
He struggled to move his feet against the new ball, later attributing that to his prolonged run of Twenty20 action in the build-up to the tournament.
However, Warner was able to battle through and record the joint-highest score of the tournament to date, matching Ben Stokes' 89 for England against South Africa.
It is likely he will only get better.
Finch form continues
All eyes may have been on Warner and Smith, but Finch was able to continue the fine form he had displayed in the lead-up to the tournament.
The captain ruthlessly punished anything short, striking four sixes in a typically powerful display.
If he and Warner continue to fire at the top of the order, Australia will take some stopping.
Afghanistan teach Asian rivals a lesson
While Afghanistan were well beaten, they deserve credit for recovering from 5-2 and 77-5 to post a total in excess of 200.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka had both shown little resistance with the bat in their respective defeats to West Indies and New Zealand, collapsing to 105 and 136 respectively.
Afghanistan put up more of a fight and they may fancy their chances of springing a surprise or two later in the competition.