David Warner and Steve Smith returned from their international cricket exiles to help steer Australia to a seven-wicket win over Afghanistan in the opening game of its World Cup title defense. (Match Highlights)
Warner posted an unbeaten 89 as the Aussies surpassed Afghanistan's 207 with 15 overs to spare. Smith was out for 18 just three runs short of victory. Glenn Maxwell hit the next ball to the boundary to lift Australia to 209/3. (Match Scorecard)
Warner and Aaron Finch (66) reunited at the top of the order and shared a 96-run opening stand to get the chase started in Bristol after Australia reduced Afghanistan to 207 from 38.2 overs.
Warner and ex-captain Smith were back following 12-month bans imposed in the wake of a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March last year that rocked Australian cricket.
They combined in a 49-run third-wicket partnership to guide Australia to victory, both withstanding booing, jeers, and chants from the crowd at the County Cricket Ground.
There'll be a big change of pace for both teams next. Australia faces a West Indies team high on confidence after a big opening win over Pakistan. Afghanistan next plays a Sri Lanka team demoralized in a 10-wicket loss to New Zealand.
Earlier, Najibullah Zadran's 49-ball half-century and 83-run partnership in the sixth-wicket stand with skipper Gulbadin Naib helped Afghanistan recover to post 207 after losing both openers for ducks in their Cricket World Cup group game against five-time champion Australia.
Paceman Mitch Starc clean-bowled Mohammad Shahzad on the third ball and Pat Cummins had Hazratullah Zazai caught behind in the next over to make it 5/2.
Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi combined to stop the onslaught with a 51-run, third-wicket partnership until legspinner Adam Zampa took a pair of wickets to wrest the control back for Australia.
The Afghans slipped to 77/5 before Najibullah and Naib joined forces and, to the delight of the crowd at the County Cricket Ground in Bristol, belted Zampa out of the attack by clouting two boundaries and two sixes off the last four balls of the 29th over.
Again, though, Afghanistan lost wickets in clusters and the innings was derailed. Marcus Stoinis (2/37) had Naib (31) and Najibullah (51) caught behind attempting pull shots off short-pitched deliveries.
Zampa returned to collect a third wicket, his figures ballooning to 3-60 off eight overs, and Cummins (3/40) took the last two to finish off Afghanistan's innings in the 39th over.
Australia has won both of its previous World Cup games against Afghanistan, including a 275-run victory in Perth four years ago.
(With AP Inputs)