Steve Smith produced a performance that was "like he hadn't left", said Aaron Finch after the former Australia captain struck 91 not out against a New Zealand XI on Friday.

Smith and opener David Warner are back in the Australia fray having served their suspensions for the ball-tampering scandal that overshadowed their 2018 tour of South Africa.

The former hit 89 not out against a New Zealand XI on Wednesday and followed that up with another stunning performance against the same opposition, finding the boundary 10 times in a 108-ball knock.

Australia won the final match of their Brisbane training camp by 16 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method, and Finch believes the experience of Smith and former vice-captain Warner will be a huge boost to their Cricket World Cup hopes.

"His [Smith] timing and class was back again," Finch said. "It was like he hadn't left. His drives down the ground on a really difficult wicket to time off the front foot was so impressive, just the amount of time he spent in the middle and how he went through the gears was very impressive.

"They [Smith and Warner] are two of the best players in the world which is valuable to have at your disposal. The boys have been brilliant. All the work off the field with the team has been great.

"It's an interesting time, no doubt, when they are coming back in but still a great opportunity for everyone to learn off them as well. They have so much experience and what they bring to the group is really valuable."

Smith and Warner are among six players that were part of Australia's 2015 World Cup-winning side who feature in the squad that will attempt to retain the title in England.

"I think it's a big advantage, just to know what it takes to win a World Cup and what it takes to manage your way through a campaign which can be difficult," Finch added.

"You have to be at your best at the business end but you can't afford to let anything slip at the start. Six guys who have been there and done that will give a lot of experience to the others of what to expect, what to feel walking out there because it is different.

"When you talk so much about it, when it finally happens it's a relief to be looking forward. The fact everyone is together and getting on great, the boys are pumped to ramp up the preparations. It really is the time of your life, a World Cup, so that will be awesome."

Australia begin their World Cup campaign against Afghanistan on June 1.

Steve Smith and David Warner's year-long international exile has come to an end following their inclusion in Australia's squad for the Cricket World Cup.

Smith and Warner were stripped of their roles as captain and vice-captain respectively and banned for 12 months for their involvement in a ball-tampering scandal during the Test series against South Africa in March 2018.

Their suspensions expired last month and the pair – who did not feature in the one-day international series against Pakistan in the Middle East – will be in action at the World Cup in England, starting in June.

However, the 15-man squad – led by captain Aaron Finch – does not include in-form batsman Peter Handscomb and fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, while the likes of D'Arcy Short, Kane Richardson, Ashton Turner and Matthew Wade also missed out.

Handscomb has averaged 43 in 13 games this year, including a maiden ODI hundred against Indian, but there is no room for the Victorian following Smith and Warner's return.

Despite being sidelined since January due to injury, Hazlewood was confident of earning a World Cup spot but Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff are Australia's preferred pace options.

Starc and Richardson's inclusion for the showpiece 50-over tournament is subject to fitness.

"Steve Smith and David Warner come back into the squad. Both are world-class players and it has been pleasing to see them produce some good form in the IPL," Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said.
 
"Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson have both been named subject to fitness. The advice from the Cricket Australia [CA] medical team is they are progressing well and barring any setbacks will be available for selection ahead of our opening match against Afghanistan on June 1.  
 
"Given the depth of talent and competition for spots there were a number of tough calls we had to make to settle on our squad of 15.
 
"Unfortunately, from the recent squad which toured India and the UAE, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner and Kane Richardson have made way for the above inclusions, but all three have been included in the Australia A squad for the tour of England.
 
"Josh Hazlewood has also been named in the Australia A squad. Having not played at the highest level for some time, we feel this will provide him with the best preparation to get some quality cricket under his belt. Our focus is to have Josh back bowling at his best for the commencement of a big Ashes Tour."

 

Australia’s World Cup squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa

Justin Langer says one or two players will be "brutally unlucky" to miss out on selection when Australia name their Cricket World Cup squad.

Langer's men will head to the United Kingdom for the global tournament, which begins at the end of May, having won eight ODIs in a row, after they completed a 5-0 sweep of Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

Much debate has centred on how Australia will fit Steve Smith and David Warner – both available again after 12-month bans for their roles in last year's ball-tampering scandal – into a batting line-up that fired consistently against India and Pakistan.

There is also stiff competition for bowling places and Langer was quoted by cricket.com.au as saying: "We know categorically there are going to be one or two guys brutally unlucky not to get selected because they're all going so well.

"The blokes in the squad at the moment will be praying it's not them."

While Australia's selectors appear to have a tough task ahead of them, Langer added: "It's actually becoming more obvious by the day to me, the same with the other selectors.

"It becomes more clear as you watch games. That's why games are so important. There's obviously going to be a couple of really disappointed players, but that's the tough business we're in."

One of the biggest selection dilemmas concerns the opening slots. Warner is a proven performer at the highest level and his first three Indian Premier League innings over the past seven days have yielded scores of 85, 69 and 100 not out.

However, Australia's incumbent openers have both excelled in recent weeks. Skipper Aaron Finch plundered 451 runs in five matches against Pakistan, while Usman Khawaja's 98 on Sunday was his fifth score of 88 or more – including two centuries – in 10 innings.

Langer hinted at all three being picked at the World Cup as he stated: "David has shown he's a very versatile player, Uzzie's batted three a number of times, Finchy's batted in the middle order. Versatility is important."

Australia's top order fired once again as they completed a 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan with a 20-run victory in the fifth ODI in Sharjah, despite a fine hundred from Haris Sohail.

Steve Smith and David Warner are now available for selection after completing 12-month bans for their part in last year's ball-tampering scandal, but on recent evidence it will be no easy task finding places for the former skipper and vice-captain at the upcoming Cricket World Cup.

All of Australia's top four passed 50 on Sunday as the tourists racked up an imposing total of 327-7, Usman Khawaja leading the way with 98 – his seventh score in excess of 50 in his last 10 ODI, including two centuries.

Skipper Aaron Finch contributed 53 to an opening stand of 134 and finishes the series with 451 runs, while Shaun Marsh added 61 and Glenn Maxwell provided excellent acceleration late on with a typically flamboyant 70 from 33 deliveries.

Haris compiled 130 from 129 balls in reply and shared century partnerships with Shan Masood (50) and Umar Akmal (43) to keep Pakistan in the hunt.

However, the respective dismissals of Umar and Haris in the 40th and 41st overs left Pakistan with too much to do and they fell short on 307-7 despite an unbeaten 50 from stand-in captain Imad Wasim.

Australia have now won eight ODIs in a row and could not be in better form ahead of the World Cup, which begins in two months.

Khawaja and Finch faced a few nervy moments early on after Pakistan won the toss and chose to bowl, but Australia's openers were soon in command once again as they put on 134 in 23.2 overs.

Usman Shinwari accounted for the pair, with Khawaja picking out midwicket to miss out on another hundred, yet Marsh made his second fifty of the series and Maxwell raised the tempo superbly, thumping 10 fours and three sixes.

A flurry of late wickets saw Shinwari and Junaid Khan finish with 4-49 and 3-73 respectively, before Abid Ali – a centurion on debut last time out – fell to the recalled Jason Behrendorff for a golden duck at the start of the Pakistan chase.

Haris, who made his maiden ODI hundred last week, anchored the innings superbly thereafter and a tense finale was in prospect as he and Umar combined to leave 93 needed from 11 overs, with six wickets in hand.

Both set batsmen fell in quick succession to Lyon and Kane Richardson, though, and Imad's fighting fifty was not enough for Pakistan.

Any Australia captain would expect to be sternly tested in a year that features a Cricket World Cup and an Ashes series, but Aaron Finch and Tim Paine are set to face particularly challenging examinations of their leadership credentials as they prepare to welcome Steve Smith and David Warner back to the international fold.

Twelve months on from the sensational ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town that prompted suspensions, recriminations and plenty of tears, Smith and Warner are now available to play at the highest level once again.

Ahead of the expiry of their year-long bans, Australia's former skipper and second-in-command, who were sanctioned by their country's cricketing governing body along with opening batsman Cameron Bancroft, met up with the ODI squad in the United Arab Emirates this month. 

Somewhat predictably, Smith, Warner and head coach Justin Langer - appointed as the successor to Darren Lehmann soon after last year's controversy erupted - all offered glowing reviews of that reunion, each man sure to reference the importance of the team's "values" at every opportunity.

Yet while the returns of two of the world's best batsmen would appear to provide obvious positives for Australia in such an important year, Finch and Paine will surely be aware that the comebacks of Smith and Warner could also act as destabilising influences for a team that finally appears to be heading in the right direction.

Australia endured plenty of on-field misery in the aftermath of the ball-tampering saga. A humiliating 492-run defeat in the fourth Test against South Africa – after Smith, Warner and Bancroft had been sent home - was followed by a limited-overs humbling at the hands of England and further series losses across all three formats before 2018 was up.

However, there were encouraging signs for the Test team as they beat Sri Lanka 2-0 on home soil earlier this year after going down 2-1 to India, while recent Australian ODI displays have been nothing short of magnificent, with a stunning series win from 2-0 down in India preceding three emphatic thrashings of Pakistan in the UAE.

Intriguingly, 50-over skipper Finch has found top form in the ongoing rubber with Pakistan, compiling successive scores of 116, 153 not out and 90 to seemingly end any debate over whether he will retain the captaincy for the World Cup that begins at the end of May.

In a sense, though, the success of Finch and Australia over the last few weeks has only made things more complicated. Smith and Warner - who are both in Indian Premier League action at present - remain likely to earn immediate recalls in England given their hugely impressive records, but their availability is now set to provide a bigger headache than many may previously have imagined, with the team in such superb form.

Rather than approaching a major event with their best XI locked down and every player aware of their precise role in the team, a scenario you could reasonably expect after six successive away wins against high-calibre opponents, Australia face the prospect of two significant changes being made just before the World Cup begins.

If that has the potential to damage morale in certain quarters, the fact Smith and Warner are returning to international action in England is also far from ideal.

The pair would anticipate plenty of scrutiny and reminders of their transgressions in any circumstances, but English fans and media alike will doubtless be particularly persistent in bringing up the subject.

It remains to be seen how Australia's players react to that situation and there are many other unanswered questions.

Will Smith and Warner really slot seamlessly back into the dressing room? Or will some of their team-mates harbour resentment?

Can Finch and Paine fully exert their authority – in high-octane situations - over two men who were previously above them in the hierarchy?

And perhaps the biggest elephant in the slip cordon … if Paine continues to struggle for Test runs at the start of the Ashes, how awkward will it be for Australia to have Smith, who boasts a stunning average of 61.37 and plenty of experience as the chief decision-maker, in the side but unable to take over as skipper? The former captain is barred from taking a leadership position for at least another 12 months.

This month's carefully managed meeting in the UAE, complete with talk of "hugs and cuddles", represented the first step in the reintegration of Australia's fallen stars, but the answers to these posers will only become clearer as the pressure ramps up during the World Cup and Ashes.

Turning around a listing ship in the absence of two marquee players has proven a stern challenge for Australia over the past year. Smith and Warner may be set to come back on board, but that does not mean it will now be plain sailing.

Aaron Finch was again the talisman for Australia as they clinched the ODI series against Pakistan with a comfortable win in Abu Dhabi.

Finch hit centuries in each of Australia's victories in Sharjah and, though he did not reach three figures on this occasion, it was the captain who once more made the key contribution.

The opener laid the foundation for Australia, hitting 90 off 136 balls and forming a third-wicket stand of 84 with Peter Handscomb.

Glenn Maxwell added 71 from 55 balls as Australia finished on 266-6, before Pat Cummins took 3-24 to help seal an 80-run win and an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-game series.

Usman Khawaja scored 88 in the previous match but was cleaned up for a six-ball duck by Usman Shinwari as Pakistan made a promising start, with Shaun Marsh soon following him to leave Australia on 20-2.

However, Handscomb, who hit Mohammad Hasnain for four boundaries in the ninth over, and Finch more than steadied the ship and the latter brought up his half-century from 82 balls with a two off Imad Wasim.

He upped the pace after securing his fifty but was denied a third successive ton when he holed out to long-on to become Yasir Shah's sole wicket.

Maxwell was typically aggressive and smacked eight fours and a six, though a run out denied him the opportunity to press further on the accelerator in the final two overs.

Yet 266 proved more than enough, Pakistan slumping to 16-3 after just seven overs as Shan Masood (2), Haris Sohail (1) and Mohammed Rizwan (0) all fell to Cummins.

Imam-ul-Haq (46) provided some solidity to the Pakistan innings but Maxwell was influential again, trapping the opener lbw.

The middle order proved much more difficult to remove than the top but the designated hosts' response never looked like a match-winning one and their hopes of salvaging a victory effectively went when Jason Behrendorff ended a stand of 53 between Imad (43) and Umar Akmal (36) by removing the latter.

From there the tail folded quickly against the spin of Adam Zampa (4-43), who wrapped up a result that condemns Pakistan to their first bilateral ODI series defeat in the United Arab Emirates since 2015.

Australia have played 43 games across all formats in the time Steve Smith and David Warner have been banned - and the statistics suggest the two should have no problem walking back into the XI for the upcoming Ashes.

Ex-captain Smith and former vice-captain Warner are available to be selected for their country again from this week when the 12-month bans for their roles in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal come to an end.

Here, with the help of Opta, we take a look at how Australia's batsmen have fared across all three formats over the past year without the duo.

 

TESTS (P9 W3 D2 L4)

The first Test without Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft, who was given a nine-month ban for his part in the saga, ended in a 492-run loss to South Africa as the Proteas wrapped up a 3-1 series success.

Matthew Renshaw was one of those drafted in for that final match in Johannesburg, but having scored a cumulative 13 across two innings, he has not appeared in a Test since. 

Peter Handscomb initially filled Smith's spot at four and averaged fewer than 19 across seven innings, though Joe Burns was one of the success stories, the opener's 180 against Sri Lanka last month helping him to an average of 50 over the past year.

Travis Head (51) had a better average than Burns in that time, but openers Aaron Finch (27.8) and Marcus Harris (32.7) were unable to replicate Warner (48.2), particularly when they struggled in a 2-1 home series loss to India.

Having made his Test debut in October, Marnus Labuschagne batted at four in the recent two-match series with Sri Lanka, yet his average of 26.3 pales in comparison with Smith's 61.4.

 

ODIS (P18 W7 L11)

With a World Cup on English soil looming on the horizon later in 2019, Australia's 50-over fortunes were looking grim as little as three weeks ago.

A five-match series in India began with defeats in the opening two matches, meaning the world champions had lost 11 of 13 ODIs since the Newlands scandal.

But a stunning comeback sealed a 3-2 win over Virat Kohli's men, and Australia have continued that momentum in the UAE, where successive Finch hundreds mean the tourists lead Pakistan 2-0 in a best-of-five contest.

Those centuries have lifted Finch's ODI average across the past year to 39.4, while the likes of Usman Khawaja (60.9), Shaun Marsh (59.3) and Handscomb (52.1) have all benefitted from opportunities they may not otherwise have had.

Two months out from the start of the World Cup, the holders appear to be finding form at just the right time, and the returns of Smith and Warner will leave head coach Justin Langer nursing a welcome selection headache.

 

TWENTY20S (P16 W7 L8 NR1)

Smith's ban had little effect on his nation's T20 form - the 29-year-old having not featured in that format since March 2016 - yet Warner left a bigger void to fill having scored more than any other Australian in the shortest format.

Despite that, four leading batsmen averaged more than Warner's 26.7 over the previous 12 months.

Finch amassed 465 runs, though that total comes with the caveat that 324 of those were accrued in his first three innings. In his past 13 T20 knocks for Australia, Finch has averaged only 10.8.

All-rounder Glenn Maxwell (averaging 34), D'Arcy Short (28.3) and Head (27.3) were the others to shine in Warner and Smith's absences.

Aaron Finch hit his second century in as many matches as Australia cruised to an eight-wicket victory in the second one-day international against Pakistan in Sharjah.

Finch's form had come under scrutiny in the build-up to this five-match series but he has answered his critics in the opening two meetings.

Following a knock of 116 that inspired Australia to a win by the same eight-wicket margin in the first match, Finch's unbeaten 153 – a career best – ensured his side stayed perfect.

Pakistan set the tourists a target of 285 but saw Finch build a formidable opening partnership with Usman Khawaja (88) which carried Australia to 219.

And the skipper was in the middle until the end as Australia reeled in their target for the loss of only two wickets with 13 balls remaining.

Imam-ul-Haq's dismissal for a duck in the opening over got the match off to an inauspicious start for Pakistan, but their innings was not without its impressive performances.

Mohammad Rizwan scored 115 off 126 deliveries and captain Shoaib Malik chalked up 60, but Haris Sohail (34) was the only other man to make it beyond 20.

Jhye Richardson (2-16) took the first two wickets but suffered a dislocated shoulder after landing awkwardly on his bowling arm when attempting to prevent a boundary. It remains to be seen whether he will play any further part in the series.

Nathan Coulter-Nile matched Richardson's wicket count with figures of 2-52 from his seven overs.

Pakistan were then frustrated by Australia's openers and it was not until the 37th over that they made their breakthrough – Khawaja caught by Imam off the bowling of Yasir Shah.

Glenn Maxwell added 19 before being run out by Sohail, but Finch saw out the innings opposite Shaun Marsh, who contributed an unbeaten 11 to Australia's total.

The third ODI takes place in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, when Australia can wrap up the series. 

Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh inspired Australia to an eight-wicket victory over Pakistan on Friday in the first of five one-day internationals.

It was a tough outing for both bowling units in Sharjah as the batsmen took centre stage, with Haris Sohail scoring an unbeaten 101 to claim his first ODI century.

Imad Wasim arrived in the middle to ignite a storming late partnership with Sohail and secure a handy 280-5.

But Australia's response was measured and captain Finch (116) proved inspirational, firing off boundaries alongside Marsh (91 not out) to bring the target firmly into view.

The match remained in the balance with balls running out, but Marsh kept his nerve and there was an over remaining as he lunged over the line to complete the chase.

Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat but adopted a disciplined early approach, protecting wickets as Sohail scored steadily after he came in on 35-1 following Imam-ul-Haq's dismissal for 17. 

Each of Sohail's partners reached double figures, with Umar Akmal impressing but falling two runs short of a half-century when Aaron Finch held on at mid-off.

That was the second of two Nathan Coulter-Nile wickets, yet Australia struggled to really trouble their opponents, who were then primed for a big finish as Imad was introduced.

Four fours and a six from just 13 deliveries helped Imad to a superb 28 not out and Pakistan appeared well placed.

Australia's openers breezed to 63-0 before Usman Khawaja swiped wildly at Faheem Ashraf's delivery to fall for 24.

However, Australia kept their cool and the influential Finch reached three figures with a huge six to put his side in control.

There were four maximums from the Australia skipper, but he got a little sloppy and was dropped on 114 before departing two runs later, caught behind to Mohammad Abbas.

Howevrer, i was only a bump in the road for Australia and Finch's men remained steadily on course for their target, which they knocked off with six balls to spare through the good work of Marsh and Peter Handscomb (30 no).

A 3-2 ODI series win in India should give Australia the belief they can go on and win the World Cup, says Aaron Finch.

Australia defeated their hosts by 35 runs in Wednesday's decider in Delhi, Usman Khawaja's century setting the platform for 272-9 before a collective effort from the bowlers ensured India could only make 237.

Victory meant Finch's men became the first Australia side to win a bilateral series from 2-0 down, and the captain was pleased to offer a riposte to those who had doubted the defending champions ahead of the World Cup in England this year.

"People have written us off for quite a while now. We always knew the plans and style [that we have] can win us the World Cup. It's about ourselves believing that we're good enough and sticking to our game plan," Finch said in his post-match presentation.

"[It's] unbelievable, the resilience that we showed, being down 2-0 it would have been easy to roll over and let them drift away, but the fight that we showed, we've had our backs against the wall for quite a while now so I'm really proud of the group.

"It's important to have a well-balanced side: if you have all attacking players in these conditions, you're going to struggle. They're too good to walk out and blast them out the park - you need guys who know how to play situations.

"From 2-0 down to win 3-2 is pretty special. I've been coming here a while and trying to win and haven't, and so have a lot of Australia players, so it's a pretty special moment."

Head coach Justin Langer said the signs were looking positive ahead of what Australia hope will be a fifth World Cup triumph from six attempts.

"Unless you're one of the selectors!" he joked. "It's tough to the pick the World Cup squad, it's been an incredible arm wrestle.

"India are a world-class team and Virat Kohli, I don't think I've ever seen a better player, so for us to win this series is just incredible for Australian cricket."

Alex Carey will return to the Australia side for the first one-day international against India and Glenn Maxwell is in line for a promotion.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Carey was overlooked for the 2-0 Twenty20 whitewash of Virat Kohli's side as Peter Handscomb donned the gloves.

Captain Aaron Finch confirmed Carey will be recalled for the ODI opener in Hyderabad on Saturday.

The skipper said: "Alex has done well when he's had his opportunities and I know he was really disappointed missing out on the T20 games,

"But Pete had done a good job for the [Melbourne] Stars and gave us the luxury of playing that extra bowler as well, which was so important at the end of the day.

"Going forward, [the keeper] is probably likely to be in that middle-order, number seven spot."

Maxwell made a scintillating 113 not out in a seven-wicket win on Wednesday after scoring a half-century in the first T20 and is set to be pushed up the order after batting at seven in the home series' against India and South Africa.

"His two knocks here were unbelievable," Finch said.

"Especially that last one, it was as good a T20 innings I've ever seen in terms of a big run chase, where the rate was always hovering around 10-11-12 which makes it difficult to manage your risk-reward scenarios.

"He'll get an opportunity a bit higher up the order, no doubt. His record in India is very good, the way he played in Australia, even in the ODIs there was some really good improvement.

"So whether that's six, whether it's five – I'm not exactly sure yet. But he'll get an opportunity a bit higher than seven I'd imagine."

Melbourne Renegades captain Aaron Finch says his side stuck to their strengths as they pulled off a remarkable comeback against the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League final. 

Runners-up in 2015-16, the Stars looked to be cruising to their maiden BBL crown at 93-0 in response to the Renegades' total of 145-5 in Melbourne on Sunday. 

But a stunning capitulation saw them lose seven wickets for 19 runs in 30 balls, eventually finishing on 132-7 at Marvel Stadium. 

"It's exciting, very special," said Finch, who managed only 13 with the bat. "Our boys were fantastic. I didn't do a hell of a lot to be fair, it was the guys who executed with bat and ball. 

"We knew batting first it was going to be so hard to chase any total, you can defend anything. We stuck to our strengths and you just need one little opening, especially in a final with the pressure on."

Player of the match Dan Christian - previously a winner of the BBL with Brisbane Heat - followed up an unbeaten 38 with bowling figures of 2-33, as well as a pair of catches. He added: "I wasn't expecting that to be honest, an awesome game from everyone. 

"The bowlers stuck to it all the way. I was lucky to parachute in at the end. 

"This is right up there, let's say it's the best one! We spend a lot of time together, a great bunch of blokes."

Despite throwing away their chance at the title, Stars captain Glenn Maxwell was full of praise for his players.

"Extremely proud, we played some great cricket this tournament," he commented. "To fall short at the end is disappointing.

"Hopefully we'll win it next year. Great support, they've been brilliant for us.

"Congratulations to Renegades, we've had some great tussles.

"To my boys, I've asked a lot of you and you've delivered in spades."

Melbourne Renegades emerged from the jaws of defeat to sensationally win their first Big Bash League title by 13 runs as Melbourne Stars collapsed in dramatic fashion.

Runners-up in 2015-16, the Stars looked to be cruising to their maiden BBL crown at 93-0 in response to the Renegades' total of 145-5 in Melbourne on Sunday.

But the Stars capitulated in remarkable scenes, losing 19-7 in 30 balls as they were limited to 132 runs at Marvel Stadium.

 

STARS THROW AWAY TITLE

The Stars were cruising with a coveted trophy in their sights - Ben Dunk (57) and Marcus Stoinis (39) settled in the middle.

Dunk hit four boundaries and a six, while Stoinis smashed a pair of fours and a six of his own.

But when Stoinis was bowled out by Cameron Boyce, it all went horribly wrong in one of the wildest chokes seen in the competition.

"If the Stars lose from here, I don't think they'll ever win it," Shane Warne said on Fox Sports with the Stars five down . "It was the unlosable game."

Aside from Adam Zampa (17 not out), no other player reached double figures as Peter Handscomb (0), Glenn Maxwell (1), Nic Maddinson (6), Seb Gotch (2), Dwayne Bravo (3) and Jackson Bird (4 not out) watched the trophy slip through the Stars' grasp.

"For those men in red, they'll sit there and giggle and say 'I can't believe we won the Big Bash Final'," Warne said. "For the men in green, they've got some serious questions they've got to ask themselves. They lost the game through reckless cricket, maybe a bit complacent and some pretty ordinary shots and they'll be a shattered group."

 

RENEGADES IN MARVEL MIRACLE

After the stadium was evacuated just hours before the final due to a rogue fire alarm, the Renegades somehow - beyond belief - defended a modest total in the Melbourne derby.

The Renegades were sent in to bat by Stars captain Maxwell, whose side gained the upper hand as they reduced their rivals to 65-5 in the 11th over - Jackson Bird (2-25) and Zampa (2-21) the wicket-takers.

However, Tom Cooper (43 runs from 35 balls) and Dan Christian (38 from 30) put the Renegades back on track with an unbeaten 80-run partnership.

Renegades skipper Aaron Finch was run out at the non-strikers' end and he was seen taking his frustrations out on a chair as he headed down the tunnel.

Then, with the ball, Renegades quartet Boyce (2-30), Chris Tremain (2-21), Christian (2-33) and Harry Gurney (1-20) helped pull off the unlikeliest of victories in their first BBL final appearance.

Peter Siddle is back from the one-day international wilderness after Australia overhauled their squad for the upcoming ODI series against India.

Veteran paceman Siddle has not played an ODI since 2010 but the 34-year-old has been included in the 14-man team for the three-match series, starting in Sydney on January 12.

Batsman Usman Khawaja – who last played an ODI for Australia in January 2017 – has also been recalled, along with star spinner Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh and Peter Handscomb following Australia's revamp.

Travis Head, Chris Lynn, D'Arcy Short, Ben McDermott and Ashton Agar have been dumped following the 2-1 series loss to South Africa last year as Australia look ahead to the Cricket World Cup in England.

Captain Aaron Finch, Alex Carey, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa are the only survivors from that side after Nathan Coulter-Nile succumbed to a back problem, while selectors opted to rest Test trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

"After a disappointing period in ODI cricket, the National Selection Panel along with team coaches have reviewed our performances across this format and we've identified a number of key areas that we feel we need to improve in order to help put this team in the best possible position to turn this period around," National selector Trevor Hohns said.

"With this in mind and the World Cup looming, we've selected players we feel provide us with the flexibility to play a variety of roles at different stages of a match."

Hohns continued: "It's wonderful to have Peter back in the squad for the first time since 2010. His white ball cricket has improved considerably the older he has got, and his selection is great reward for his professionalism and strong leadership qualities."

"Usman is a batsman we know can put vital runs on the board at the top of the order, and Peter [Handscomb] is not only a fine player of spin bowling, he's also a batsman we know can hold an innings together while keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Mitch gives us another all-round option with his ability with both bat and ball," he continued.

"Travis Head, D'Arcy Short and Chris Lynn have been unlucky to miss out. All three have had opportunities to cement their spots, but unfortunately, they have not been as productive as we would have liked in recent times when playing ODI cricket for Australia."

 

Australia squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa.

Captain Tim Paine said a final inspection of the SCG pitch will decide Australia's plans for the fourth Test as the hosts look to deny India a series victory.

Australia – trailing 2-1 in the series after India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with victory in Melbourne – opted against finalising their XI for the final Test in Sydney, starting Thursday, amid doubts over opener Aaron Finch and all-rounder Mitch Marsh.

Finch – who could drop down the order – is under pressure at the top of the order, having managed just 97 runs in six innings, with a top score of 50 in Perth.

Marnus Labuschagne was also added to the squad following Australia's 137-run defeat to India in the Boxing Day Test last week.

"It's just team balance really," Paine told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday, with his side desperate to prevent Virat Kohli's men from becoming the first India team to win in a Test series in Australia.

"There's ongoing discussion the last day or two but we'll have a final look at the wicket [this afternoon] and we'll have our last chat then.

"We're not too far away. As I said all along, we'll be looking to pick the best XI that we think is the best combination to win this Test and the wicket will play a part in that."

Peter Handscomb could also return to the side, having been dropped for Marsh for the MCG clash against India.

Marsh failed to capitalise on his return, posting scores of just nine and 10 as Australia were outclassed in Melbourne.

"If we think India were to play two spinners Pete could be a really important player for us," Paine said. "We know how good a player of spin he is. That's one of the discussions we'll be having today, if we think India will go that way and if they are, are we prepared to bring him back in.

"I'm sure if he does [play], he's an excellent player of spin and contributes a lot to the group in the field and around the team. He's a bit like Marnus in that he's a very good package, a good person around our team."

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