The 34-year-old, who had laid the groundwork for Australia’s third highest ODI total of 4-389 with another opening century stand with captain Aaron Finch, clutched his upper leg immediately after tumbling over and twisting his body in the field. Such was his discomfort he took several minutes to leave the arena, assisted by the team trainer and Glenn Maxwell.
A Cricket Australia spokesman confirmed Warner had sustained an adductor injury and had been sent for scans, the results of which Australia will be sweating on.
His absence for the remaining four matches of the white-ball campaign against India over the next week would be a significant setback for the home team, breaking up his highly successful partnership with Finch.
However, the consequences could be felt even more if his involvement in the main event of the season, the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, is affected. The first Test begins in Adelaide on December 17, with Australia looking to hit back after losing the series 2-1 in 2018/19 when Warner and Smith were serving suspensions for the ball-tampering affair.
Warner scored three Test hundreds against Pakistan and New Zealand last summer including a signature unbeaten 335 against Pakistan in Adelaide. With an out-of-sorts Joe Burns and the untried Will Pucovski the other two openers in the 17-man Australian Test squad, Tim Paine’s side would look very different without Warner.
The former Test vice-captain had appeared on track for a 19th ODI century on Sunday before being run out for 87 from 77 balls, having served as the chief aggressor in a 142-run stand with Finch (60 from 69) before spending time in the middle with Smith (104 from 64).
Marnus Labuschagne (70 from 61) and Maxwell (63 not out from 29) also cashed in but it was Smith’s day on a stinker of an afternoon in Sydney.
Smith arrived on a charter flight from Dubai earlier this month having struggled for runs in the Indian Premier League over the previous couple of months. However, he said before this series he had rediscovered his mojo in the nets in Sydney’s far west during the quarantine period as former Australia captain Ricky Ponting hurled balls at him.
He wasn’t wrong. There was light and shade from Smith as he sprinted to three figures with 40 runs in 19 balls. A case in point was the 40th over where, facing Jasprit Bumrah, he began by smacking a slower ball beyond point for four, then executed the most gentle of late cuts past wicketkeeper KL Rahul for another via a vacant third man and finally produced a third with an elegant glance through fine leg. In the next over, he lifted Yuzvendra Chahal down the ground for six and pushed a leg break to mid-on casually to bring up his hundred.
While Smith starred, Warner and Finch continued to cement their place among the very best top-order pairs over the years with their fourth ODI stand of 100 or more this year – the most of any opening partnership in the world in 2020.
Finch also got it right with the toss on Sunday, with the extreme heat that gripped Sydney over the weekend making it a more than handy one to win.
While the Indians were forced to spend the afternoon in a sauna, with the temperature exceeding 40 degrees, Australia’s bowlers could kick up their heels in the dressing-room knowing that a forecast cool change which came through about 5.30pm was going to make life far more appealing in the evening.
Chris Barrett is Chief Sports Reporter of The Sydney Morning Herald.