Somerset: David Warner found redemption and banished suggestions he had lost his attacking mojo by delivering his first international century since returning from suspension and spearing Australia into a strong position against Pakistan in their World Cup clash last night.
Skipper Aaron Finch had hoped to bowl first on a green and moist deck after two days of rain at the County Ground but was sent in to bat by counterpart Sarfaraz Ahmed.
However, it did not matter as Warner (107 off 111 balls) and Finch (82 off 84 balls) put on 146 – the highest one-day international opening stand in England by Australia since the 1975 World Cup.
When Warner fell, caught by Imam-ul-Haq off the bowling of paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi, Australia were in a strong position at 4-242 in the 38th over. There was a late collapse though, the Australians losing 6-30 off 6.5 overs to be bowled out for 307 off 49 overs.
That was largely due to Mohammad Amir, the left-armer brilliant in claiming 5-30 off 10 overs, including 37 dot balls. It was his first five-wicket haul and the best figures by a Pakistani bowler in the first innings of a World Cup match.
There had been much discussion over why Warner had produced the two slowest half-centuries of his career until this point of the tournament but he responded in style. Whether it was because of his stints in stand-and-deliver Twenty20 cricket through his suspension, or the quality of bowling and pitches here, Warner had not been the same force but he emerged a more aggressive figure against Pakistan.
His century, his 15th in one-day internationals, came off 102 balls and featured 11 boundaries and one six. He had a stroke of luck on 97 when his thick edge flew between wicketkeeper and first slip but he punched the air and jumped in delight upon reaching three figures – the second time he had done so in a World Cup and his third against Pakistan.
His hug with Shaun Marsh told the tale, having endured a year of frustration, regret, even torment, following his role in the sandpaper scandal in South Africa.
He was the more aggressive early before Finch took charge. The captain was particularly savage on Mohammad Hafeez – three of his four sixes were muscled over wide long on from the veteran off-spinner.
Pakistan's inability to strike early and the manner in which the runs were leaked prompted former captain Ramiz Raja to describe what he had seen as "appalling".
"This is absolutely appalling. After winning the toss, you bowl short, you bowl wide, there is a lot of sameness about this attack, three left-armers," he said on Test Match Special radio.
"I am fuming – I shouldn't be talking."
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan could not believe the "basic errors" Pakistan had made, including a no ball by spinner Shoaib Malik which resulted in a free hit to Warner – and a six over long on, his first in one-day international cricket since September, 2017.
Pakistan's joy of their victory over England disappeared when tall left-armer Shaheen went for 24 runs off his opening two overs, and Hafeez was left in disbelief when he had 32 smoked from three overs.
Warner pulled the second delivery he faced – off Shaheen – for four and from there he was off. He had 17 off 13 balls, dashed between the wickets and supplied 26 of a half-century opening stand.
Finch was given a life on 26 when Asif Ali grassed a regulation chance at slip off Wahab Riaz, another left-armer, and then survived a lbw review on 39, off the same bowler.
He then went on the attack, crunching 14 runs off three deliveries off Hafeez's opening over. His half-century corresponded with a century stand and the runs continued to flow.
Warner reached his half-century – his third of the tournament – off 51 balls, and was notably busier at the crease than he had been.
Sarfaraz continued to search for a wicket and turned to Amir, the strike weapon who had conceded only 11 runs off his opening spell of four overs.
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