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25 Jun 2019 1:28
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Cricket

    Steve Smith and David Warner in fine form on the 'cheaters' comeback tour

    Their year in the wilderness is over, a shadow cast over Australian cricket is lifting, and pariahs Steve Smith and David Warner are back on the pitch, appearing to have barely missed a beat.

    Their year in the wilderness is over, a shadow cast over Australian cricket is lifting, and Steve Smith and David Warner are the pariahs back on the pitch.

    Smith and Warner were met with boos and muted applause as they entered the field at Southampton for Australia's World Cup warm-up match against England.

    The pair were instrumental as they continued their return to the national fold, helping to secure a 12-run win at the Rose Bowl.

    Smith hit 116 off 102 balls in a impressive innings to steer his side to 9-297 — his first century since being banned for his part in the ball-tampering scandal during a Test in Cape Town — while Warner was Australia's next best, with 43 off 55.

    But the jeers and cries of "cheater" could be an indication of the hostility awaiting them during back-to-back World Cup and Ashes series in the UK.

    There will be plenty of gags about sticky tape and sandpaper if the crowd at Southampton is anything to go by.

    Warner, Smith and Cameron Bancroft were handed bans for the ball-tampering scandal exposed during Australia's tour of South Africa in March 2018.

    Wearing a hat made of sandpaper, and dressed as a mock Aussie fan, English student Jonty Megginson said the returning cricketers would be met by jeering crowds wherever they went.

    "Oh well, any chance to grill the Aussies is a good day out — few pints, just get into them really. The Aussies do love sandpaper," he said.

    English fan Jack Dean led his mates in a chant of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Cheat, Cheat, Cheat!", but insisted it was mostly "harmless taking the mickey".

    "I think if England did the same and went to Australia it would be the same, it's a bit of harmless fun," he said.

    Another English cricket tragic arriving for the match laughed as she predicted a "warm reception" at matches across the UK in the coming months.

    "You can interpret that how you like," she said.

    "But hopefully we'll warmly receive them back, and then get them out fairly quickly."

    But while many British fans are out to remind Smith and Warner of their indiscretions, there will also be World Cup crowds eager for their return.

    "Australia always have fans everywhere, especially in Afghanistan, David Warner is very popular in Afghanistan," Eliaz Khosty said.

    Mr Khosty brought his family along to see Smith and Warner at Southampton and said Afghan fans "will be excited to see them back".

    After 12 years in London, Aussie expat Andrew Spry is accustomed to being outnumbered in the English stands, but said Smith and Warner had "done their time".

    "It's a chance for redemption," he said.

    "Australia are always the villains."

    This is the first major tournament for former captain Smith and former vice-captain Warner as they return to international cricket after 'sandpapergate'.

    "They'll understand, they're probably going to cop a few shouts from the terraces, but that soon gets forgotten," former English captain Michael Vaughan told the ABC.

    "They'll cop some stuff, but they're quality players.

    "The Aussies are a lot stronger to have those two players within their team both for the World Cup and The Ashes."

    Expect Barmy Army to have some fun

    Dean Wilson has been a cricket reporter for more than a decade and has watched the Australians cop it from the British crowds over several tours.

    Wilson, Cricket Correspondent for the Daily Mirror, said the ribbing would be even more rapturous this time around.

    "Australia are always the villains when it comes to cricket in this part of the world," he said.

    "They've caused so much pain and heartbreak over the years. Yeah, absolutely we want to see them experience a little bit of that themselves".

    John Etheridge, Cricket Correspondent for The Sun Newspaper, has been around the game for more than 40 years.

    He predicted the scandal would haunt the Australian team throughout the English summer.

    "It'll be pantomime villain-type stuff, I think," he said.

    "I think it'll be a kind of interesting sub-plot to their involvement in the tournament. Clearly, Warner and Smith, they've served their time, I suppose.

    "I guess now the slate is clean, so I think it's fair enough that they're playing cricket again, but there's no question they'll get a lot of attention from the English media and particularly from the Barmy Army and the England fans.

    "I'm sure the Barmy Army will invent some songs specifically for Warner and Smith."

    But if they can block out the taunts and turn up playing quality cricket, Wilson said their form will do the talking.

    "There's a chance for Warner and Smith to really make the story … if they're successful and help Australia have a decent World Cup and even give England a bit of a fright in The Ashes," Wilson said.

    "They'll have that opportunity, but, for sure, in the first instance they'll be reminded of exactly what they did and how they paid for it."

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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