Dubai in line to host Steve Smith and David Warner comebacks in Pakistan-Australia ODI

Bans on duo for roles in ball-tampering scandal in 2018 end on March 29, day of fourth ODI between two sides in UAE

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 10:  David Warner of Randwick-Petersham and Steve Smith of Sutherland embrace at the end of the Sydney Grade Cricket One Day match between Randwick-Petersham and Sutherland at Coogee Oval on November 10, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
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Steve Smith and David Warner could return to action for the Australian cricket team in a one-day international against Pakistan in Dubai on March 29.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Sunday confirmed dates for the five-match ODI series between the two countries, to be held in the UAE.

With the 12-month bans on Smith and Warner – for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal that erupted during a Test match in South Africa last year – due to expire on March 29, it is possible their first taste of international action will come at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in the fourth of the five matches.

Sharjah will host the first two matches on March 22 and 24, followed by one game in Abu Dhabi on March 27, and then two more in Dubai on March 29 and 31.

However, it remains unclear if either of the pair will be fit to play next month as both top-order batsmen recover from elbow surgeries.

According to a report that appeared on the Cricket Australia (CA) website, Smith's road back to full fitness is more complicated because his injury and surgery are considered more serious than that of Warner. Smith will remain in an elbow brace until the end of February.

Whether they are fit in time for the UAE series or not, Australia are optimistic their eventual comebacks will give the team a timely boost ahead of the Cricket World Cup in England and Wales in the summer.

Newly-appointed assistant coach Ricky Ponting's upbeat assessment on Sunday comes despite the misfiring team losing their two most recent ODI series at home, to India and South Africa.

"Absolutely, I actually do," Ponting said when asked in Melbourne if Australia could win the World Cup. "India and England are probably the two stand-out teams right now but if you add Warner and Smith back into that line-up, I think that team looks as strong as any.

"Conditions in England will suit our style of play," added Ponting, who was appointed on Friday as assistant to coach Justin Langer for the flagship tournament, focusing on the batting group. The former captain is hugely experienced in the 50-over game, playing at five World Cups and winning at three.

"I think I have a pretty good grasp on what it takes for tournaments like that," he said. "Hopefully I can have an impact right from the start. The feedback from the boys has been positive."

Meanwhile, CA refused to visit Pakistan over security fears, instead opting to play the ODI series in the UAE, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday.

Pakistan have been eager to revive international cricket at home, suspended since attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. Since then they have hosted finals of the Pakistan Super League for the past two years and played matches against a World XI, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

A West Indies women's team played three Twenty20 internationals in Karachi from January 31-February 3 this year.

But CA reportedly acted on its government's advice not to tour Pakistan where no Australian senior team have played since 1998 over security fears.

PCB director Zakir Khan was disappointed over Australia's refusal to tour.

"The PCB was optimistic that it will be able to convince Australia to send its side for some matches after successfully staging high-profile bilateral international series," Zakir said.

"But we are disappointed for the enthusiastic and passionate cricket fans in Pakistan who will now have to wait for some more time before they can see Australia playing in our country."