Warner all set for Afghan showdown

By: Monitoring Desk

Australian officials are confident David Warner’s leg soreness won’t stop his return to international cricket in the defending champions’ World Cup opener against Afghanistan.
Suffering from tightness in his upper leg, Warner missed Australia’s final World Cup warm-up match against Sri Lanka on Monday, as Usman Khawaja hit a match-winning 89 in his favoured opening position.
Warner then only batted at training on Wednesday morning in Bristol ahead of Australia’s opening game of the tournament on Saturday (10.30pm AEST, Kayo, Fox Cricket, 9GEM), without taking part in any fielding drills.
Australian medical staff would also have been mindful of the cold and wet conditions at the ground, with temperatures around 8C.
But it’s understood there is no serious concern over his fitness to play the opening match.
Australia train again on Thursday night in Bristol, before they have one final optional run on Friday afternoon.
It comes as coach Justin Langer and selectors must make a call on whether Warner should return to the top of the order, or bat at No.3.
Khawaja has starred in the opening role alongside captain Aaron Finch in recent months, underlining that with his 89 against Sri Lanka, having shaken off an earlier knock to the knee that saw him limp off while fielding.
Khawaja said earlier this week he was not fussed on where he batted against Afghanistan.
“I’m in a place in my life and my career where I’m really enjoying my cricket,” he said.
“It’s a World Cup, I’m going to do my best whatever I have to do, whether I’m playing, whether I’m not playing, I want to do my best.
“There are some things I can’t control, I’ve been in and out of the teams as much as anyone. It’s a privilege to play for Australia so I’m just glad to be here.”
Warner had been in scintillating form in the IPL, topping the run-scoring charts with 692 runs despite leaving the tournament early, but did not reach those heights during Australia’s warm-up matches.
He had earlier dominated Sydney Premier Cricket with Randwick-Petersham and club president Mike Whitney said “he looked like he was playing Test cricket at times with us”.
“Was he in that mode to say: ‘I’m going to prove you all wrong’? Well probably. He’s a scrapper. That was his motivation for him in the IPL,” Whitney told AAP.
“It was a huge motivation for him for people to acknowledge he is a world-class batsman. To say: ‘I know I made a mistake and I’m trying to make amends’. “I can’t wait to see him go out and play in the World Cup, because he’ll stamp his authority and say to people he’s back.”
Whitney said Warner has also taken valuable lessons from the past year, adding: “I think he’s actually pulled his head in.” “I think his time with Randwick-Petersham over the summer really gave him an opportunity to wake up from what happened in Cape Town,” Whitney said. “It really gave him an opportunity to get back with his family, play a bit of golf and have a look at his life.
“He might have said to himself: ‘I’m 30-odd now and you don’t know how long this will last. I better pull my head in and do what I do best and just bat.
“I would be surprised if you hear anything or misbehavior. He knows if he goes over that line again, he is gone for good. He will never play for Australia again.”
Selectors must also decide on whether to opt for three quicks in Bristol, and if so whether Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson or Jason Behrendorff will join Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins in the attack.
Coulter-Nile could be considered the better batsman of that trio, while Behrendorff’s height and left-arm delivery gives him a point of difference.
Richardson’s ability to take wickets and keep the run rate to a minimum in the dying embers of an innings is undoubtedly his trump card, but knows he needs to be more than just a death-bowling specialist.
“For me to play and do well, I need to be able to bowl at every stage of the innings and that’s something I’m going to be keep working on,” he said earlier this week.
“I’m confident in my ability to at least do a job at the back end if needed.”

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