ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Smith, Warner ready for official return
Captain Finch confident that his superstar batting duo have rediscovered their magic touch ahead of World Cup opener
1 June 2019, 01:21 PM AEST
You don't lose greatness, and as far as Australia's captain Aaron Finch is concerned, they don't come much greater than Steve Smith.
Smith and former vice-captain David Warner will finally make their official returns to the Australian team on Saturday night against Afghanistan, more than 14 months since the ball-tampering incident.
So much has been made about how they will come back from their bans, with the reaction of the crowd and fitting into the Australian set-up again being the chief talking points.
But arguably more important is whether they can score their usual kind of match-winning runs Australia are going to rely on to defend their World Cup.
In so many ways, Smith and Warner look like they are ready to answer that question in the affirmative.
Warner was the leading run-scorer in this year's Indian Premier League, his 692 runs at 69.2 showing clear signs of his best.
Smith warmed to the task a little slower, but enters the tournament with an average of 131.33 across Australia's six warm-up games.
"I think when you are world-class players you adapt again and get up to speed," Finch said.
"(Playing) the IPL was really important. That's a high standard of cricket so it just gets you up to as close as international competition as you can.
"Steve is one of the all-time greats, by the time he finishes the game. There's no question about his batting ability.
"When you're great, you get the game quicker. Things just happen quicker. So there was never any issue about how he would bounce back."
Finch said he even expected Smith's game to benefit without the captaincy on his return, allowing him to spend even more time training.
Smith did exactly that on Friday, spending more time than any other teammate in the nets at Australia's optional session in Bristol.
Australian quick Josh Hazlewood has spent plenty of time bowling in the nets to the pair in recent years, and believed they both looked back to their best in last month's Brisbane training camp.
"They've played a fair bit of cricket over the last few weeks, both of them," Hazlewood said.
"So it doesn't take much to get it back ... I think they'll be cherry-ripe for the start of it and only get better.
"Their cricket ability is fantastic for the group. It adds an edge for the World Cup and Ashes. I think they're both due for a big winter."
2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
May 22: (warm-up) Australia beat West Indies by seven wickets
May 25: (warm-up) Australia beat England by 12 runs
May 27: (warm-up) Australia beat Sri Lanka by five wickets
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE