Smith, Warner set to return for Aussies; NZ faces Sri Lanka
LONDON (AP) — Five-time champion Australia starts the defense of its Cricket World Cup title against Afghanistan at Bristol on Saturday, with David Warner and ex-captain Steve Smith expected to return to the lineup.
New Zealand, beaten by Australia in the 2015 final, faces Sri Lanka at Cardiff in the earlier game.
Australia captain Aaron Finch confirmed Warner is fit for the day-nighter in southwestern England, and that likely means it's the same opening combination that helped carry Australia to victory at the last World Cup. But a lot has happened in between.
Finch was elevated to lead the Australia ODI squad after Smith and Warner were each banned for 12 months for their parts in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March last year.
After a considerable slump, the Australians have recovered in recent months to win eight consecutive ODIs, including a 3-2 comeback series win in India and a 5-0 sweep of Pakistan, then winning three warmup games in England. Afghanistan had a narrow win over Pakistan in a warmup game in Bristol but this was followed by a heavy defeat to top-ranked England.
Fourth-ranked New Zealand takes on 1996 champion Sri Lanka in the Welsh capital.
Sri Lanka has played four ODIs at Sophia Gardens but the three-time finalists are still hunting for their first win at the venue, with defeats to New Zealand (2013), India (2013), England (2016) and Pakistan (2017).
Sri Lanka was well beaten in both of its warmups against South Africa and Australia.
New Zealand beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in a home ODI series at the start of the year.