Australia scrapes one wicket win over depleted NZ

MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – David Warner smashed an encouraging 39 with the bat and Steve Smith took a brilliant catch in the field as the pair savoured a victorious return to the Australia fold in a World Cup warm-up against a New Zealand XI yesterday.

Wearing Australian colours for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal erupted in Cape Town in March, 2018, Smith and Warner were greeted warmly by a small crowd in Brisbane, where Aaron Finch’s team took a one-wicket win.

Former vice captain Warner, batting at number three behind openers Finch and Usman Khawaja, suffered a nervous start and was dropped in the gully when yet to score in the unofficial match.

However, he soon warmed to the task and hammered six fours and a six in his 43-ball knock before top-edging a reverse sweep to be caught in close.

Warner’s knock, coupled with Khawaja’s cheap dismissal for four, is likely to fuel the debate as to Australia’s ideal opening partnership for their World Cup title defence in England.

Batting at four, former skipper Smith was less assured with the bat, scoring 22 off 43 balls, but made an early impression in the field when he dived for a superb one-handed catch to remove Tom Latham for 13 off the bowling of Jason Behrendorff.

Set 216 for victory after bowling New Zealand out in 46.1 overs, Australia’s tail-enders held their nerve to close out the win, with Adam Zampa (11 not out) bringing up the winning runs with a four at 48.2 overs.

Australia seamers Pat Cummins, Behrendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile all took three wickets against New Zealand, who were missing regular skipper Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Trent Boult because of Indian Premier League commitments.

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