SYDNEY (Reuters) - David Warner scored an unbeaten 155 in his side’s thrilling last-ball win, while former test captain Steve Smith made 85 for his Sutherland club as the suspended duo enjoyed strong returns to club cricket in Sydney on Saturday.
Smith and Warner were banned for a year from international and state cricket for their involvement in a ball-tampering scandal and still have another six months to serve.
They are continuing their rehabilitation in the new Sydney club cricket season, which got underway this weekend.
The diminutive Warner could not have hoped for a better return, scoring a match-winning knock for Randwick-Petersham, who won by four wickets off the last ball while chasing 278 against St George.
The opening batsman carried his bat, his hundred coming off 98 balls in an innings featuring 13 fours and two sixes, including one that went out of the ground.
He reached his century with a leg-side single and celebrated the mark as he would in an international match with his trademark leap and kiss of the badge on his helmet.
“He played really well and is very good in those type of situations,” said former test team mate Josh Hazlewood, who was playing against Warner on Saturday.
“We probably beat anyone else today, except David Warner. It was a pretty special knock.”
A few miles away at the Glenn McGrath Oval, Smith also looked solid in his 92-ball innings for Sutherland, who went down to Mosman by three wickets.
The 29-year-old, who got married this week, received a warm welcome from an unusually large crowd and looked his usual twitchy self at the crease as he rattled off a half century in 62 balls.
“When he was batting, everyone was really warm with their support, and to be able to see so many people come to a grade game was incredible,” said former Australia and current Sutherland team mate Shane Watson.
“It’s awesome to see him playing, even though I’d rather he was playing for Australia. The support he got today will reassure him that everything’s okay, people do make mistakes and people do forgive very quickly.”
Still the number two test batsman in the ICC rankings, Smith’s innings included six fours and a six, before he holed out to mid-on and received another ovation as he trudged back to the pavilion.
It was all a far cry from the March day when he returned home from South Africa a broken man after the ball-tampering scandal, which also resulted in a nine-month suspension for batsman Cameron Bancroft.
Smith repeatedly succumbed to tears at a news conference at Sydney Airport as he apologised for his part in the incident that rocked Australia and also precipitated the departure of coach Darren Lehmann.
Their Cricket Australia bans expire on March 28 and it looks like they will be welcomed back into the Australia set up for next year’s 50-overs World Cup and Ashes series in England.
“If our environment’s right and they’re playing well, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be welcomed back in to help us win the World Cup and help us win the Ashes next summer,” Lehmann’s replacement as coach Justin Langer said this week
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien