David Warner and Steve Smith, who have been banned for one year due to the ball-tampering scandal in Newlands against South Africa, found themselves on the opposite side of the fence in the New Year. The reason, they were captaining their franchises in the Bangladesh Premier League. Warner, the captain of the Sylhet Sixers squared off against Smith, who captained the Comilla Victorians and it proved to be a tense match. However, Smith got the better of Warner in this clash as Comilla Victorians defeated Sylhet Sixers by four wickets with one ball to spare at Mirpur on Sunday.
After Smith inserted Warner’s side into bat, the left-hander struggled on a sluggish pitch in Mirpur as he managed to score just 14 runs off 13 balls. However, his innings ended in bizarre fashion. Warner tucked a short and quick ball from offspinner Shoaib Malik to midwicket and set off for a quick single, but his partner Towhid Hridoy was unmoved. Warner reached the other end and he grounded his bat before Hridoy but the third umpire still gave Warner out. It was the exploits of Nicholas Pooran that helped Sylhet Sixers reach a decent total. Pooran, the West Indies player, smashed five fours and two sixes as his 41 off 26 balls and helped Sylhet Sixers reach 127/6. For Comilla Victorians, Mahedi Hasan, Mohammad Shahid and Mohammad Saifuddin took two wickets apiece.
In response, Comilla also struggled with Smith falling for 16 but Tamim Iqbal had given the side a great start with an aggressive 35. However, with Comilla struggling at 97/6, it needed a magnificent knock from former Pakistan veteran Shahid Afridi to get them back on track. Afridi blasted 39 off 25 balls, which included five fours and two sixes. With two runs needed off two balls, Afridi calmly smashed a boundary off Alok Kapali to seal the win. For Sylher, Nepal’s spin sensation Sandeep Lamichhane was the star with 2/16.
The mood in both camps was contrasting, with Smith saying that the team had made it hard for themselves. “We made it hard for ourselves. I think 140-odd was par on the wicket. They bowled and fielded quite well and restricted us,” Smith said. On the other hand, Warner said the bad start had made things difficult for his team to bounce back. “Hard to lose wickets in the first six overs, and come back from that, but I'm happy we took it so close. We told the guys to keep backing themselves and bat 20 overs, and if we could get to 120-125, it would be competitive after the sub-100 total yesterday,” Warner added.
The bans on Smith and Warner are coming to an end in March and they could be eligible to play the series against Pakistan. Cameron Bancroft, the third member of the trio who was caught trying to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper, had his ban ended in December and he is currently playing for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League.