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Steve Smith, David Warner named in Australia's World Cup squad

AP

Former captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were on Monday named in Australia’s squad for the Cricket World Cup after completing 12-month suspensions for ball tampering.

Both players also regained their Cricket Australia contracts as the country’s new list of contracted players was announced — less than three weeks after becoming eligible for international selection again after bans imposed for their involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

Young batsman Cameron Bancroft, who was suspended for nine months after using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in the third test against South Africa in March 2018, has not received a contract.

The 15-man World Cup squad announced on Monday is more notable for its omissions than the expected inclusion of Smith and Warner.

While banned from international cricket, the pair was still able to play in professional leagues overseas, and Warner has been in outstanding form in the Indian Premier League.

Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, who has a back injury, and batsman Peter Handscomb have both been omitted from the squad.

Despite Smith’s return, Australia will be captained by Aaron Finch in its World Cup defense, with selectors having flagged that they would continue with the man who has led the country in one-dayers in Smith’s absence.

Handscomb was seen to have a strong case for selection as he averaged more than 40 in 13 matches last year and offers wicketkeeping coverage.

Pacemen Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff are among the surprise inclusions.

Mitch Marsh, who was Australia’s test vice-captain as recently as October, has been omitted and has lost his CA contract but his brother Shaun Marsh has been retained.

Usman Khawaja who has been Australia’s most prolific batsman in the past year while opening the batting with Finch, may now be under pressure to hold that position with the return of opening batsman Warner. Khawaja and Finch have averaged 89 in their recent opening stands.

Selection chairman Trevor Hohns said choosing the squad involved several tough calls.

“Steve Smith and David Warner come back into the squad,” he said. “Both are world class players and it has been pleasing to see them produce some good form in the IPL.”

Hohns said fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson have been named subject to fitness.

Hazlewood has been included in two Australia A squads — one for one-day cricket and the other for four-day matches — which will tour England later this year, in a bid to show his fitness ahead of the subsequent Ashes series, also in England.

“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 the big Ashes Tour.”