WORLD Cups, by their very nature, showcase world-class performers – and the Taunton crowd were fortunate enough to see two live up to their billing as Australia and Pakistan went head-to-head on Wednesday.

David Warner and Mohammad Amir divide opinion within cricketing circles. Both have served lengthy bans – Warner for his part in Australia’s ball tampering scandal of 2018, Amir for spot-fixing in 2010 – but the pair are now making up for lost time.

The two went head-to-head under overcast skies – though, thankfully, no rain - as the match got underway and it was captivating from the outset.

Amir tempted both openers into loose drives without finding an edge but Warner was willing to bide his time. His half-century against India on Sunday was his slowest in ODI cricket (and arguably helped cost Australia the game) and he reached the landmark from 51 balls today – not the destructive Warner of old.

Amir returned to challenge him once more soon after he had raised his bat and led Warner a merry dance, beating the inside then outside edges with consecutive deliveries in the 23rd over and seeing an appeal for caught behind ignored – proved a correct decision on review.

Warner survived and, knowing the rest of the attack was not in Amir’s class on the day, punished the looser deliveries. A typically savage pull for six off a Shoaib Malik long-hop was Warner’s only maximum of the innings as he steadily built towards three figures.

Even the shot which took Warner to his century wasn’t vintage – a nick through the slips to the third-man boundary – but he celebrated with gusto.

This was his first century for Australia since his ban and it turned out to be a match-winning one, with no Pakistan batsman able to replicate his feat. The leap which greeted the milestone showed just how much it meant to the batsman.

"It has been a long time coming so it is a great feeling," he said afterwards, admitting there were times during his ban where he felt as though he may never get the chance to score hundreds for his country again.

"I still feel I left a lot out there. I got out with 70 balls to go so I take responsibility for us collapsing after that.

"I've been getting back into my normal routine and I have worked hard in my time off.

"I don't hear any boos in the middle and it's water off a duck's back - I've had it my whole career."

Warner was dropped on 102 – the second routine spill of the day for the unfortunate Asif Ali, who had earlier shelled Aaron Finch at slip – but it wasn’t costly as he departed shortly afterwards, leading to a flurry of wickets as the middle order didn’t build on the platform created.

Amir was Australia’s tormentor-in-chief, returning to pick up the wickets he had deserved in his earlier spells.

Seeing a skilful left-arm seamer steaming in is one of cricket’s great joys and the 27-year-old mixed up his pace effectively, forcing two batsmen into miscues down the ground before trapping Alex Carey in front with a searing yorker.

Amir’s late burst saw him finish with 5-30 as Australia fell to 307 all out, which looked eminently gettable when Mohammad Hafeez and Imam Ul-Haq led Pakistan to 136-2 at the halfway stage of the reply.

That foundation was partly laid by a breezy 30 from Babar Azam on the ground he will call home in Somerset’s Vitality Blast campaign this summer.

Babar was looking threatening and set up his own ‘shot of the day’ contest when a glorious cover drive was swiftly followed by a punch straight down the ground, but he couldn’t resist taking on a short ball from Nathan Coulter-Nile and succeeded only in picking out fine leg.

The key wicket arrived when Ul-Haq fell for 53 to the first ball of the 26th over and Pakistan never truly looked like pulling off a victory thereafter, though Australian nerves were frayed when Wahab Riaz struck three huge sixes in his entertaining cameo.

The match was back in the balance with 45 needed from six overs and three wickets in hand, but Australia have a superb left-arm paceman of their own and Mitchell Starc stood up when it counted.

He had Riaz caught behind for 45 – Australia left it as late as possible to review it and were pleased they opted in favour – and then cleaned up Amir with a vicious yorker which the recipient would have been proud of.

A run out sealed the match, Sarfaraz Ahmed the final man to fall for a valiant 40 after a performance which was almost quintessential Pakistan - at times brilliant, at times woeful.

Pakistan were well backed by a fanatical support – with some superb outfits on display – but their team was ultimately not quite good enough to overhaul an efficient Australian side, with some lapse fielding not helping the men in green.

Also showing up in green were a fair few empty seats, particularly in the Somerset Stand and Marcus Trescothick Stand.

This has been a feature of too many World Cup games so far. While the causes are up for speculation (too many corporate tickets given away and the cost of the tickets have been two suggestions), to see Taunton’s most high-profile World Cup game not played in front of a full house was a disappointment – not least to anyone who may have missed out on tickets in the ballot.

Those who were present will remember a competitive match played in an excellent atmosphere – with Warner’s innings ultimately the difference despite Amir’s best efforts.