David Warner and Steve Smith knew they were going to be booed in England and cricket fans didn't disappoint in Australia's opening few World Cup games.

They were harshly treated in Bristol and Nottingham and at The Oval, Indian captain Virat Kohli was so fed up with the booing he told his own fans to cut it out.

But would Kohli's gesture act as a blueprint for other captains to follow? Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed was asked the day before his side's clash against the Aussies in Taunton if he would follow his Indian counterpart's lead should the Pakistani supporters get stuck in.

"I don't think Pakistani people are doing like that," Ahmed said. "Pakistan people love cricket and they love support and they love the players."


At first, it seemed like an idealistic — perhaps even naive — response, given the vicious taunts Smith and Warner have copped in the UK since returning from 12-month bans for their involvement in the ball tampering scandal.

But Ahmed's words turned out to be prophetic. Not a boo was heard when Warner strode out to the middle alongside Aaron Finch, and when the opener flipped a ball to the square leg boundary warm applause rang out around the ground.

That same applause was heard when the left-hander pulled another short ball to the rope on the leg side.

It was the most love Warner's felt all tour and was even more surprising given — just like against India on Sunday — it was almost impossible to spot the gold shirt of an Aussie supporter in the stands.

The hugely pro-Pakistan crowd lived up to the words of its captain. Rather than hate on the opposition, the plethora of supporters clad in dark green heaped praise on their own.

A boisterous pocket of fans near the sightscreen drowned out everything else with loud cheers and chants for Mohammad Amir as he bowled a sensational opening spell. Trumpets were blown with gusto and drums thumped with vigour.

The noise died down with every Australian milestone but the respect remained. Warner was clapped upon reaching 50 and a standing ovation followed when he reached triple figures to register his first ever century in England and first ton for Australia since the Boxing Day Test against England in 2017.

The returning star leapt into the air — his trademark move upon scoring a century — kissed the coat of arms on his helmet and pointed his bat towards his teammates in the dressing room, shaking both arms in relief as much as celebration.


Warner didn't last much longer, caught in the deep for 107, and as he left the field fans once again rose out of their seats to congratulate him. It was a sight he would never have been expecting to see given the circumstances surrounding his return to international cricket.

Steve Smith was given a metaphorical cuddle too. There was a noticeable absence of booing when he strode to the wicket at No. 3 after Aaron Finch hit one straight up in the air on 82.

The former captain's first boundary — a sweetly struck drive on the up through cover-point — brought nothing but applause for his awesome batsmanship. Even when he was out for 10, it was clear the crowd was celebrating Pakistan's success rather than Smith's demise, as had been the case in Australia's first three World Cup clashes.

As former Aussie Test star Kerry O'Keeffe said in commentary for Fox Sports: "I think Virat Kohli's gesture to show respect may have turned the tide for games when the English aren't predominantly in the crowd.

"Today there was no booing for either (Smith or Warner). Taunton crowd, a lot of Pakistanis, there was a lot of respect. I wonder if Virat Kohli's reaction to the crowd may have quelled a lot of booing."

One reason the polite reception came as a shock in Taunton was because Somerset was robbed of Cameron Bancroft's services after the ball tampering controversy. The county had signed Bancroft as its overseas player for 2018 but decided against bringing him in after he was banned for his close relationship with sandpaper.

Cricket lovers in England are often rusted on county supporters and loyalty to the local team comes with the territory, so Taunton residents had every right to be filthy with Smith and Warner for dragging their young teammate into the ball tampering mess, ultimately costing Somerset an international-quality recruit.

The day before the Australia-Pakistan match in the corridors of the Taunton press box, a Somerset official predicted a not-so-pleasant welcome for Smith and Warner because of the added complication of what Bancroft's ban meant for the county. The jeers were bad in Bristol and London, he said, but they'd be even worse here.

That wasn't the case at all.

It helped the stands were swamped by more Pakistan fans than Somerset supporters so the scars of last year's betrayal didn't run as deep and those in attendance were brilliant as they showed the class Kohli was asking for and Ahmed predicted.