Cricket World Cup 2019: Darren Lehmann tips Steve Smith for ‘exceptional’ run
Steve Smith led Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2019, where he made 319 runs. © BCCI

Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann has tipped Steve Smith for an “exceptional” ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, while backing David Warner to help the defending champions in the manner he did four years ago when they won the title at home.

Having served their 12-month bans for the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year – the result of which was also that Lehmann stepped down as coach – the pair of Smith and Warner will play their first international matches for Australia at this summer’s World Cup. Lehmann, having worked closely with the former captain and vice-captain, backed them to deliver strongly.

“He (Smith) will be exceptional at the World Cup,” Lehmann told Macquarie Sports Radio. “People are worried about the break they have had with 12 months out, but you see them in the IPL performing and making runs.

“David Warner is an excitement machine, at the top of the order he can set it alight. If he has a really good tournament, he set us on the road to winning a lot of games like he did at the (2015) World Cup with Aaron Finch, they’ll be hard to stop.”

Warner and Smith returned to the IPL this year, for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals respectively. Warner amassed 692 runs at an average of 69.2 and strike-rate of 143.86 for SRH before returning home, whereas Smith, who led Rajasthan in the latter half of IPL 2019, made 319 at 39.87 at a strike-rate of 116.

Both cut short their IPL stints at the end of April to fly back to Australia for a pre-World Cup camp and three unofficial one-day matches against a New Zealand XI in Brisbane.

Batting at No 4 in all three matches, Smith scored 22, 89 not out and 91 not out. Warner fared worse, scoring 39 from one-down and 0 and 2 as opener.

Australia open their World Cup campaign against Afghanistan at Bristol on June 1.