Former Australian skipper Steve Smith and opener David Warner were given a hostile reception by the Ageas Bowl crowd as they came out to bat in their World Cup warm-up match against England on Saturday.
However, unfazed, Smith continued his impressive build-up to the World Cup with a match-winning ton. He scored a brilliant 116 in his first game against England since a year-long ban for ball-tampering as Australia beat the World Cup hosts and favourites by 12 runs.
There were jeers, and some chants of ‘cheat, cheat, cheat’, for both Smith and Warner, who also served a 12-month suspension for his role in the scandal during a Test match against South Africa in Cape Town, from the crowd of 11,500 at Hampshire’s headquarters.
— Tom VVardle (@tomvvardle) May 25, 2019
Prior to his ban, Smith had scored 383 runs in 15 one-day internationals innings at an average of 29.46, well below his career average of 41.84.
“I was actually a little bit disappointed with my one day form (before the ban),” Smith told reporters after the warm-up match. “So it was nice to spend a bit of time in the middle.
“But I’m not reading too much into it. They are just practice games but hopefully I can keep up the form as we head into the real stuff.
“I am feeling composed and calm at the crease and hitting the balls I want to, to the boundary. Hopefully I can keep it up.”
Smith’s composure did not slip even when the home crowd heckled him over the ball-tampering scandal.
“I heard a few things when I went out to bat but it didn’t get to me,” Smith said.
“I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion in how they want to treat people but it’s just water off a duck’s back to me. I was just trying to keep my head down, move straight ahead and do my job.”
Smith, who played mostly in domestic T20 tournaments around the world and some club cricket in Sydney before his ban ended in late March, had elbow surgery earlier this year and he said it was still on the mend.
“The elbow is coming along pretty well,” Smith said. “I haven’t really had to test it yet throwing-wise.
“I’d say I’m about 80 percent throwing-wise but Im hoping it can progress a little bit more in the week leading up to the World Cup.”
Smith also added that the injury would not affect him bowling his leg-spin if required during the upcoming World Cup in England and Wales.
The defending champions Australia will take on Sri Lanka in their second and final warm-up match in Southampton on Monday before their World Cup opener against Afghanistan in Bristol on June 1.