LONDON     -   Moeen Ali has called on fans who will attend the 2019 World Cup in England to refrain from heckling the duo of Steven Smith and David Warner with personal barbs. Both men will be returning for Australia for the first time since they were banned for a year each in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, but Moeen said he didn’t want fans to go after them too much because of that.

“I really hope they don’t get too much stick. I want them to enjoy the series,” Moeen told the Guardian. “If you have to, keep it funny, not personal. We all make mistakes. We are human beings and we have feelings. I know deep down they are probably really good people. I just hope they get treated decently. I just want the cricket to be spoken about.”

Moeen’s comments come two days after Australia coach Justin Langer had said both Smith and Warner would require sensitive monitoring and handling over the coming months. “There’s not too many I’ve met in my life who like being booed or heckled or disliked so... they’re human beings,” Langer had said.

“We’re going to have to care for them, we’re going to have to put an arm around them and make sure they’re going okay. But what people say, whether it’s in the crowd or social media or wherever, there’s nothing they can do about that, they can’t control it but what we can do is keep an eye on them and make sure they’re going okay as people as much as cricketers.”

Smith and Warner were part of Australia’s pre-World Cup camp, which included three practice matches against a New Zealand XI. Smith made 22, 89* and 91* in those games, while Warner mustered 39, 0 and 2. Both men played key parts in the recently concluded IPL 2019 for their respective franchises, though they had to leave the tournament early due to the Australia camp.

Warner was the leading run-scorer in the competition, amassing 692 runs in 12 innings for Sunrisers Hyderabad at an average of 69.20 and a strike rate of 143.86. Smith started slowly for Rajasthan Royals but upped his run-scoring significantly once he was made captain, ending with 319 runs overall in 10 innings at an average of 39.87 and a strike rate of 116.00.

Hazlewood World Cup snub the right decision: Langer

MELBOURNE (Reuters): Australia coach Justin Langer has defended the decision to leave Josh Hazlewood out of the World Cup squad, saying the paceman lacked match fitness as he recovers from a back injury.

Hazlewood, who partnered left-arm quicks Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson during Australia’s 2015 World Cup triumph, expressed his frustration last week at first missing out on a place in the initial squad for England and then being overlooked as Jhye Richardson’s replacement.

Richardson, ruled out with a shoulder injury, was replaced by namesake Kane Richardson, with Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile the other pace bowlers picked. “He just hasn’t been playing any cricket,” Langer said in England of the 28-year-old Hazlewood, who has claimed 72 wickets in 44 ODI matches.

“He’s come off a second stress fracture in his back and while he’s just starting to get up and running in the nets now - I think he’s played six white ball games in the last 18 months - that’s T20 and one-day cricket. “We know he’s a great bowler. He’s a brilliant bowler, but it was just such bad timing for him.”

World champions Australia head into the tournament on the back of an eight-match winning streak, including series wins away to Pakistan and India. Much of the focus on Aaron Finch’s team will follow former captain Steve Smith and David Warner, who are back in the squad after serving 12-month bans for ball-tampering.

Both played key roles in the 2015 tournament and have made plenty of runs in the leadup to England, with Warner top scoring in the Indian Premier League and Smith smashing two half-centuries off an understrength New Zealand in an unofficial warmup series in Brisbane. Langer said both players were champing at the bit.

“It’s been hilarious for me, because whether on the Anzac Cove or in the lunch room or we’re on the bus playing cards, (Smith’s) just shadow batting the whole time,” he said. “He loves batting — he’s shadow batting on the sand, he’s shadow batting in the shower — I’m not joking. “They’ve (Smith and Warner) had 12 months to have a good think about a mistake they and the team made. I’m sure they’ll be better people for that.” Australia play their World Cup opener against Pakistan in Bristol on June 1. The tournament starts on May 30.