Cricket: Smith, Warner return for Australia's World Cup defence

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The return of Steve Smith and David Warner to Australia’s squad for the Cricket World Cup came as little surprise on Monday but selectors still managed to cause a stir by omitting strike bowler Josh Hazlewood and in-form batsman Peter Handscomb. Former skipper Smith and Warner were eligible for Aaron Finch’s side after their 12-month ball-tampering bans ended last month but their return put a squeeze on the batting positions that saw Handscomb drop out. “Steve Smith and David Warner come back into the squad. Both are world class players and it has been pleasing to see them produce some good form in the IPL (Indian Premier League),” Chairman of Selectors Trevor Hohns said in a Cricket Australia statement. Warner has registered five 50-plus scores, including an unbeaten century, for Sunrisers Hyderabad in seven IPL matches this season while Smith, returning from an elbow surgery like his former deputy, has also looked in good touch for Rajasthan Royals. Spinners Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa have made the cut, with selectors going for the pace of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendorff, who has been in fine form in the IPL. Hohns said Hazlewood, who has instead been named in the Australia A team for their tour of England in June-July, remained a big part of Australia’s Ashes plans. The quick, who has taken 72 wickets in 44 one-dayers, has been sidelined since January due to a back injury but had been confident of being fit for the World Cup. “Having not played at the highest level for some time, we feel this will provide him with the best preparation to get some quality cricket under his belt,” Hohns said. “Our focus is to have Josh back bowling at his best for the commencement of a big Ashes tour.” Starc and Richardson have both been selected subject to fitness. “The advice from the CA medical team is they are progressing well and barring any setbacks will be available for selection ahead of our opening match against Afghanistan on June 1,” Hohns said. Teams have to submit their 15-member squads by April 23 but injury replacements can be named until May 23. Opener Usman Khawaja, player-of-the-series in Australia’s ODI series victory in India last month, was picked but may have to bat lower with Warner likely to partner Finch at the top. Handscomb was left out despite his good form and the value he adds as a back-up stumper. Alex Carey has been named the sole wicketkeeper in the squad, which also contains all-rounders Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell. The tournament, being hosted in England and Wales, runs from May 30 to July 14. Squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa.

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