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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

Super Sunday sets up David Warner and Australian cricket for fascinating summer

Things looking up for the team as well as individual players with their target being to secure the World Cup-Ashes double

Sunrisers Hyderabad's David Warner walks back to pavilion after scoring 85 against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday. Bikas Das / AP Photo
Sunrisers Hyderabad's David Warner walks back to pavilion after scoring 85 against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday. Bikas Das / AP Photo

But for an injury to Jhye Richardson that could rule him out of the Cricket World Cup, Sunday would have been considered a remarkable day for Australian cricket.

David Warner scored a 53-ball 85 for Sunrisers Hyderabad albeit in a losing effort in their Indian Premier League opener. It marked a good start for Warner who is plotting an international comeback after the former Australia vice-captain was given a 12-month ban this time last year for his role in a ball-tampering scandal.

On the other side of the Arabian Sea, his Australia teammates beat Pakistan by eight wickets in the second one-day international at Sharjah to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series. Captain Aaron Finch, Warner’s one-time opening partner, scored a career-best 153 not out and struck a 209-run stand with Usman Khawaja, who missed out on a century by just 12 runs.

Win in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, and they will have clinched back-to-back ODI series following the one they bagged in India earlier this month.

Meanwhile farther west, in the north of England, county side Durham named Cameron Bancroft – Warner’s co-conspirator in the Cape Town Test scandal – as their captain for the upcoming domestic season.

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Given what Australian cricket has been through over the past year, their supporters will be pleased with the progress the team – as well as individual players – have made in recent times. The question now is whether they can pull off the improbable: defend the World Cup and the Ashes – both being played in the United Kingdom this summer.

Australia’s bowling attack does have its challenges.

Richardson, who took 2-16 in Sharjah before falling awkwardly on his bowling arm and leaving the field with a dislocated shoulder, joins fellow fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood on the injury sidelines – although the World Cup dream is not over for them just yet.

Recent performances from Nathan Coulter-Nile and Marcus Stoinis show their seam-bowling bench is strong, while Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa have shored up the spin department. And as a reward for their match-winning efforts in India and the UAE, Australia have appointed former England bowling coach Troy Cooley for the Ashes.

But it is their batting that gives them hope for success in England.

Warner may go on to amass loads of runs in the IPL, but it may still not guarantee him the opener’s slot in the ODI team. Aside from his leadership role, Finch is undroppable purely on the basis of his batting record. And Khawaja has shown the way for late bloomers in the limited-overs game, having notched two hundreds and four fifties in just 10 ODI innings this year.

Australia batsmen Aaron Finch, left, and Usman Khawaja have formed a strong partnership at the top of the order. Karim Sahib / AFP
Australia batsmen Aaron Finch, left, and Usman Khawaja have formed a strong partnership at the top of the order. Karim Sahib / AFP

Add to the mix Steve Smith, the former Australia captain and run-machine also suspended after Cape Town, and Australia have a formidable top order. The Marsh brothers have been hit-and-miss lately, but the middle order has depth – what with Stoinis, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner and Alex Carey all showing consistency in times of duress.

All eyes will be on the eventual returns of Smith and Warner. Both batsmen will be desperate to make up for lost time – as well as to make it up to the Australian public – and the best way to do that is by giving their team the best chance of retaining the two most coveted trophies international cricket has to offer.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying goes, and the duo have yet to return. But if things are already looking up for Australian cricket, this summer might just be the one to remember for its fans understandably chastened by recent setbacks.

Updated: March 25, 2019 07:48 PM

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