Smith makes fifty, Khawaja injured in World Cup warm-up

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

LONDON — Australia's Steve Smith was back in the groove on Wednesday with 76 on his return to cricket in England, but team-mate Usman Khawaja suffered an injury scare during the unofficial World Cup warm-up match against the West Indies.

Smith and David Warner returned to international duty earlier this month after completing one-year international bans for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

Both top-order batsmen took part in three warm-up matches at home to a New Zealand XI, but Wednesday's hastily arranged match in Southampton was their first in England since completing their suspensions.

Wednesday's match saw Smith lead the way as he guided Australia to a modest target of 230 in a seven-wicket win for the reigning world champions.

But there were two concerning moments for the Aussies, whose World Cup campaign starts against Afghanistan in Bristol on June 1.

Khawaja lasted just two overs before he was struck on the jaw by an Andre Russell bouncer and retired hurt following on-field treatment.

He was later sent to hospital for a precautionary X-ray.

Warner, who replaced Khawaja at the crease, had made just 12 when was undone by a fearsome bouncer from Oshane Thomas that he could only fend to the wicketkeeper.

Earlier, Evin Lewis and Carlos Brathwaite made fifties for the West Indies.

The lack of advance notice meant there were only a handful of spectators watching a match played on the Nursery Ground at Hampshire's headquarters.

With Australia in England for both the World Cup and a subsequent Ashes series, concerns have been expressed over possible barracking that Smith and Warner might receive from partisan crowds.

That was not an issue on Wednesday — although they could get a more hostile reception when Australia play England in a World Cup warm-up in Southampton on Saturday.

World Cup exile Hales

will still cheer on England

Alex Hales insists he will still support England at the upcoming World Cup despite his shock exile from international cricket.

The Nottinghamshire batsman was on course to feature for World Cup hosts England until a report in the Guardian newspaper last month revealed he was serving a 21-day ban following a second positive test for recreational drug use.

The England and Wales cricket Board responded to the report by announcing that Hales, a member of the provisional World Cup squad, had been withdrawn from international duty.

Hales, 30, is now turning his attention instead to a stint with the Barbados Tridents in the seventh season of the Caribbean Premier League.

The hard-hitting batsman, speaking after being selected as the first pick in the draft for the Twenty20 franchise competition staged in London on Wednesday, said he still wanted England to win the World Cup in his absence.

"I'm still a fan and wish all the boys all the best. What we have done over the last few years has been unbelievable," Hales said in an interview broadcast by Sky Sports.

"I will be (keeping an eye on the World Cup). The guys deserve to win it and I'll be sat there watching and cheering."

As for his feelings about his World Cup exile, confirmed when Hales was left out of England's 15-man tournament squad announced Tuesday, he simply added: "I'm not here to talk about that."

The CPL draft saw Hales selected ahead of West Indies captain Jason Holder and star batsman Chris Gayle, with the competition starting on Sept. 4.

"I just want to get back playing what I love most and that's cricket," Hales, now a white-ball specialist, added.

"This is such a good opportunity to go and play at a ground where I have such fond memories of — the Kensington Oval — and play in a big tournament in some different conditions.

"I've got a few things to do with the ECB, there's obviously a process to go through and then I start training I guess.” — AFP