Steve Smith (pic) gets another chance to impress with David Warner returning to Australia. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
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Warner’s return home presents Smith with another chance

Ben McKay February 24, 2024

Steve Smith is set to get another chance in the Australian T20 side after David Warner left the tour of New Zealand ahead of the dead-rubber game three on Sunday.

Warner, who made 32 in Wellington on Wednesday but did not feature in game two, has returned to Australia after feeling soreness in his adductor.

The 37-year-old opted to rest ahead of his Indian Premier League commitments, a key lead-up tournament for June’s T20 World Cup.

Warner’s departure opens the door for Smith, who is on the outer of the best Australian XI, but is hoping to win a squad place and play at his fourth T20 World Cup.

Smith opened in Warner’s absence at Eden Park on Friday, scooping Adam Milne for six before being trapped in front by Lockie Ferguson in the third over, departing for 11.

While Smith might feel there’s a bit on the line on Sunday, Australia can otherwise enjoy a carefree hit-out at Eden Park, with the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy secured.

Sunday’s early clash against New Zealand, starting at 1pm local time (1100 AEDT), is the last fixture before the side assembles for the USA-West Indies hosted World Cup.

That tournament affords Australia the opportunity to unite the biggest five trophies on offer from the ICC.

They are the current holders of the World Test Championship and ODI World Cup in the men’s game, and the ODI World Cup and the T20 World Cup in the women’s game.

On form, there’s reason to believe Australia are right in the mix.

“We’re playing really good cricket,” Adam Zampa said after their 72-run win on Friday night.

Josh Hazlewood.
 Australia celebrate a Josh Hazlewood wicket in the second T20I win in Auckland. Image by AP PHOTO 

“We know our team is a strong team and if we play good cricket on our day then we’ll beat most teams and it’ll be the same during the World Cup.”

Mitch Marsh’s side defeated West Indies 2-1 on home soil before powering to an unassailable 2-0 lead in their series with the Black Caps.

The win in Auckland was also a completely different style to their last-ball squeaker in Wellington two nights earlier when Tim David needed a boundary off the final ball and delivered.

“I was trying to hit a six,” David joked, “but I’ll take a four”.

“As he bowled it, I knew it was going to be hard to get under … but I felt like I hit it pretty well.

“I just looked up and I was like, ‘oh it’s gone in the gap, come on, let’s run’ and then thankfully it went for four.

“I’ve lost so many games playing in that position in the same thing, so when it does come off, and you win one, it feels pretty good.”

In Wellington, the top five batsmen all played their part, while in Auckland the bowlers took over.

All five bowlers took wickets, led by Zampa’s 4-34, though Hazlewood’s 1-12 off four – including a maiden – was seriously impressive.

Adam Milne.
 Adam Zampa sneaks one through to clean bowl New Zealand’s Adam Milne at Eden Park. Image by AP PHOTO 

Crucially for the squad’s depth, Nathan Ellis also chimed in with 2-16, while Pat Cummins did it with ball and bat, making a crucial 28.

“I feel like we’ve got a lot of bases covered with this team and the guys are playing really well and playing with confidence,” David said.

“There’s a lot of match winners in that side which is really pleasing.”

On Sunday, late squad call-up Spencer Johnson may get a run if selectors decide to rest a paceman like Hazlewood with Tests on the horizon.

After the dead rubber in Auckland, which is threatened by a rainy forecast, the Test side will assemble and head south to Wellington.

The two-Test series begins in the Kiwi capital on Thursday at the picturesque Basin Reserve, before concluding at Hagley Oval in Christchurch.