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Cricket - Australia's Warner hits 85 on IPL return

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(Reuters) – David Warner hit a blistering 85 off 53 balls for Sunrisers Hyderabad against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday as he returned to the Indian Premier League (IPL) with a spot in Australia’s World Cup squad in his sights.

Warner was barred from last year’s IPL having also been hit with a 12-month ban from international cricket for his role in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal along with Steve Smith.

The 32-year-old left-handed batsman has played in Twenty20 leagues in Bangladesh, Canada and the Caribbean with his international ban set to end on March 28.

Warner was omitted from Australia’s one-day squad for the ongoing series against Pakistan even though he was eligible for the last two games and time is ticking for him to prove his form with the 50-over World Cup beginning on May 30.

His knock on Sunday went in vain, though, as the Kolkata Knight Riders chased down the target of 182 to win by six wickets at Eden Gardens, thanks to Nitish Rana’s 68 and late fireworks from Andre Russell who was not out on 49 off only 19 balls.

Earlier, the Knight Riders had won the toss and elected to field and Warner had opened the batting with England’s Jonny Bairstow. The pair made quick work of Kolkata’s bowlers in the first 12 overs, with Warner leading the charge in an 118-run partnership.

Warner reached his half-century, a record 37th in the IPL, in the ninth over with a six over third man, launching the ball over the ropes with an acrobatic upper cut.

He hit nine fours and three sixes to all parts of the ground during his stay at the crease, with one six even hitting the cameraman behind long on.

However, he was caught attempting to drive through the covers in the 16th over, falling 15 runs short of what would have been his fourth IPL century, and helping the Sunrisers set a total of 181 for the loss of three wickets.

Sunrisers’ next match is on Friday in Hyderabad against Rajasthan Royals where Warner could face compatriot Smith, who was also not picked for the Pakistan series in the United Arab Emirates.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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