The ball-tampering fiasco might be in the past for David Warner and Steven Smith but the boos aren’t. Batting for the first time in international cricket since the expiration of their one-year suspension, the duo were up against a Bristol crowd that seemed determined to pick up from where the kindred in Southampton left last week. If the warm-up game against England saw Steven Smith answer the boos with a hundred, it was Warner’s turn today.
The 32-year-old left-hander didn’t look at his usual best to start with, but fought through difficult periods to finish unbeaten on 89 in a successful run-chase. Smith, on the other hand, made only 18 but remains crucial to Australia’s run-scoring abilities.
That hostile English crowds would greet Warner and Smith was expected, given the fierce and historical rivalry between the sides. There’s an Ashes series to follow after the World Cup too, so Smith and Warner’s return to Test cricket, the format of the game that contextualizes the ball-tampering, still remains relevant. Which is why Australia did their homework before embarking on their latest World Cup journey.
Adam Zampa, who picked three crucial wickets against Afghanistan on Saturday, revealed how Australia spoke about being mentally prepared for this crowd reaction back in Brisbane, during their pre-tournament camp.
“Honestly, we spoke about it during our camp in Brisbane about how we are going to react to it and how we are going to handle it. And we haven’t spoken about it since,” Zampa said. “I think we expected what we were going to cop and I think all of us, to our credit, are just getting on with the job.
“You heard the boos today when Smithy went out there. Call it what you want, disrespectful, or just a part of the game. Either way, I think the way that us as players are handling it has been great. If you let it get to you, I suppose that is when something will happen. I think, yeah, we are handling it really well at the moment.”
Nathan Coulter-Nile stressed on how the discussion on crowd behaviour wasn’t done at length, but was more like a brief conversation to make sure everyone is ready for it. “I guess we all knew coming into England, it’s going to be ruthless,” he said. “It was just a tap on the shoulder to make sure you’re ready for it. Everyone hands it differently. Everyone [in the squad] spoke.”
When Smith had scored a match-winning 117 against England in the warm-up game last week, he had mentioned how “pretty chilled” he was about the crowd reaction, and how he’s “happy to be back playing for Australia,” so much so that the external factors don’t seem to matter much. Warner was in a similar mould today, braving through boos and his own lack of timing to rack up a crucial score.
“Davey is a determined individual every single day. That won’t change. He’s as determined as ever,” Marcus Stoinis said of Warner’s comeback. “People think he has a point to prove but don’t think he has.”
With Australia going from strength to strength so far in the United Kingdom, the timeline of the boos will make for an interesting watch. For now, Australia seem to be winning, and the crowd, not so much.