It was all smiles for David Warner in his return from elbow surgery.
It was all smiles for David Warner in his return from elbow surgery.

Warner slams club ton in injury return

David Warner has given a timely reminder of his talent with a grade-cricket ton but the race to open the batting for Australia at both the World Cup and Ashes is now wide open.

Warner, whose year-long ban for his role in the Cape Town cheating scandal expires later this month, returned from elbow surgery on Saturday and scored 110 off 77 balls for Randwick-Petersham.

The Indian Premier League, which starts on March 23 and features some of the best bowlers in the world, will provide a better gauge of where Warner is at. The former vice-captain was expected to slot straight back in at the top of the order during both the World Cup and Ashes.

That may still be the case but Usman Khawaja has ensured that life won't be easy for coach Justin Langer and selectors as they mull Australia's best XI for the Cup opener on June 1.

Khawaja has emerged as the form batsman on Australia's current limited-overs tour of India.

The left-hander, promoted to open in the five-match ODI series, has scored 192 runs at 64.

The only batsman from either side to have scored more runs in the first three ODIs is India run glutton Virat Kohli, who has 283 at 94.3.

Aaron Finch, who put on a 193-run opening stand with Khawaja in Ranchi, declared at the start of the tour that anything is possible when asked about Australia's top order for the World Cup.

Finch is thrilled with how Khawaja has created a selection headache. "It's a great problem to have. Any time you're tossing up leaving out really good players and guys in good form - it's always a great position to be in," Finch said.

"When you're trying to find guys and shuffle guys to fill spots, that's when you're struggling a bit.

"Uzzy has been in great nick, he's a class player, so all that stuff will be talked about no doubt." Khawaja scored his maiden ODI century on Friday, earning man-of-the-match honours in Australia's first ODI win overseas since 2017.

"His consistency in one-day cricket over the last few months has been fantastic," Finch said.

"He scores all around the wicket, which makes it really tough to bowl to him." The identity of Australia's openers for the Ashes is also a long way off being decided.

Warner, Khawaja, Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns and Matthew Renshaw are among the contenders, with the final few rounds of the Sheffield Shield plus an Australia A tour set to help settle that selection showdown



Meanwhile, Shane Warne believes both Warner and Steve Smith will come back stronger than ever from their 12-month bans. He also said Warner will be the best player at the World Cup.

"I think what you are going to see is a pretty quiet David Warner and Steve Smith. They are just going to try and let their bat do the talking and toe the line," Warne told The UK's Telegraph in an interview.

"I think they will come back better than they were. They're going to come out and destroy attacks and I back David Warner to be the player of the World Cup.

"Warner overstepped the line a lot in his early career. He then changed into a more placid player but was then told by Cricket Australia to be the enforcer and was doing what he was told."

Warne expects the duo to return with renewed vigour, like he did after his 12-month ban for failing a drugs test in 2003. Warne was suspended for taking a banned diuretic and missed Australia's World Cup winning campaign as a result.

"All I can go on is experience having a year off myself. The next four years were the best I ever had," Warne, who took 708 wickets for Australia in 145 test matches, added.

"I was hungry for the game. My body and mind were fresh and it is amazing how excited you are to play again.

"You get excited just going to the nets again because you have taken it for granted in the past."