SYDNEY: Steve Smith and David Warner completed their return from the wilderness on Tuesday when Australia recalled them to a 14-man Twenty20 squad to play Sri Lanka and Pakistan with a firm eye on next year’s World Cup.

The star batsmen were both banned for a year for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal but have returned to Australia’s Test, one-day and now Twenty20 sides.

“We are delighted to welcome Steve Smith and David Warner back into the T20 International fold,” chief selector Trevor Hohns said. “Steve is a world-class batsman in all formats, while Warner is Australia’s highest ever T20I runs scorer. He was also the leading runs scorer at this year’s Indian Premier League with Sunrisers Hyderabad.”

Smith is set to play his first T20 International since 2016 and will look to continue the fine form he has shown since his return from a one-year ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

The 30-year-old smashed 774 runs in four Ashes Tests against England recently as Australia retained the urn.

Warner scored 692 runs in this year’s IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad and 647 runs in the 50-over World Cup in England as Australia reached the semi-finals.

The Twenty20 squad named on Tuesday will face Sri Lanka and Pakistan in coming weeks but Hohns said the focus was firmly on next year’s World Cup, which will be held in Australia.

“It is almost a year to the day until Australia hosts the men’s Twenty20 World Cup and we have selected this squad with that in mind,” he said. “We have looked to put a squad together that we think can take us through to that tournament.”

Despite their success in other formats, Australia have never won a Twenty20 World Cup, with an appearance in the 2010 final their best showing.

They are currently ranked fifth in the world but will be desperate to succeed on home soil in October-November next year.

Aaron Finch retains the skipper’s armband, with wicket-keeper Alex Carey and paceman Pat Cummins sharing vice-captain duties.

Ashton Turner returns from a finger injury to bolster the batting while all-rounder Marcus Stoinis was axed and Adam Zampa edged out Nathan Lyon as the preferred spinner.

Cummins and Mitchell Starc will likely open the bowling attack, backed up by Andrew Tye, Kane Richardson and Billy Stanlake.

They also included the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell.

The three-match series against Sri Lanka will begin in Adelaide on Oct 27 with remaining ties in Brisbane (Oct 30) and Melbourne (Nov 1), followed by another three Twenty20s against Pakistan in Sydney (Nov 3), Canberra (Nov 5) and Perth (Nov 8).

Squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Ashton Agar, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, David Warner, Adam Zampa.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019