Dubai: In cricket, the art of batting is all about footwork. Every coaching manual details about foot movement towards the ball to get maximum benefits while playing a shot. Many players, budding and veterans, spend hundreds of hours to hone their skills. But Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell shred the coaching manual into bits to produce a stunning exhibition of batting during his unbeaten 201 to guide the five-time champions to a three-wicket win over Afghanistan in the Cricket World Cup league match in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium has seen many greats players marvel at copybook play. The hallowed turf has produced greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar, who have prided on their technical supremacy and playing the ball with a straight bat.
Hampered by cramps, Maxwell struggled badly in the middle. His movement was completely restricted but the swashbuckling batter refused to give it in and instead stood and delivered a breathtaking counter-offensive knock that left the Afghanistan team clueless. Without moving his feet and with sheer hand-eye coordination, the Australian wielded his bat like a magician, who was ready to conjure a spell on the onlookers.
With Australia down on the mat at 91 for seven, Afghanistan were going for the kill with Maxwell at the crease along with skipper Pat Cummins, whose highest in One-Day Internationals is 37. With a target of 292 growing to gigantic proportions after the loss of seven wickets, the Australians were just facing the inexplicable. But in the end it was the hunter who got hunted.
Maxwell, capitalising on the reprieves he got, went on the offensive to score an unbeaten 201 to win the match with 3.1 overs to spare. The eighth-wicket partnership yielded 202 runs with Cummins scoring just 12 runs.
“For me it was still trying to be positive,” 35-year-old Maxwell told the official broadcasters after the win. “I haven’t really done a whole lot of high intensity exercise in the heat and it certainly got a hold of me today and just luckily enough we came out with a plan to stay at the same end for a little bit until I could sort of get some movement back.”
Afghanistan's fielding standards
Nothing mattered to Maxwell, who was hitting sixes at will on the leg-side and what was more impressive was his reverse flick off Naveen ul Haq. All his shots came without moving his feet even an inch.
However, Maxwell eschewed all his aggressive instincts early in the innings and waited for the right opportunity to play his trademark shots. That moment came in the form of a dropped chance, when Mujeeb ur Rahman floored a sitter. He not only dropped the ball, along with it he dropped all the hardwork done by the Afghanistan team through out the tournament. The situation was something similar to Herschelle Gibbs dropping Australian skipper Steve Waugh in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup.
Afghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott lamented about team’s fielding standards after the loss to New Zealand in Chennai. “We are at the bottom of the table in fielding standards. I would say it is not just pressure. It is happening way too recently,” Trott said. “We really need to improve on our fielding. We really work hard on it during training, but we need to do it in games now.”
The dropped chance, which after a leg-before decision was overturned by the third umpire earlier, gave Maxwell the confidence to throw caution to the wind and go on an all-out attack. Fortunes favours the brave and his bold approach got the desired results.
First double hundred of this World Cup
Earlier, Naveen ul Haq and Azmatullah Omarzai shared four wickets as the Australian innings floundered initially only for Maxwell’s to take Australia home. Rashid Khan also picked up 2-44.
Maxwell produced the tournament’s first double hundred, the highest individual score in an ODI run-chase, and the third highest in a World Cup.
“It would have been nice if it was chanceless,” said Maxwell, who was dropped on 33. “I led a charmed life out there. I was very lucky. I suppose just made the most of that.”
One will have to feel for Afghanistan, who did everything right. Opener Ibrahim Zadran scored his maiden century, and Afghanistan’s first win the World Cup, to give the Asian giant-killers to winning total.
At a time when Afghanistan were looking at finishing with an under-par score, Rashid Khan and Zadran joined hands to put an unbroken 58-run partnership for the sixth wicket in 27 balls, that seemed to have tilted the balance in Afghanistan’s favour. Zadran finshed with 129 not out as Afghanistan finished at 291 for five in 50 overs.
Rashid comes to the party
“If we had made good partnerships and kept wickets in hand, we would have scored 330, but we lost a few wickets and didn’t get the kind of partnership we were looking for, but Rashid played well in the end. We have plan for every opposition and it was our aim to put this score,” Zadran said.
Australia now join hosts and leaders India and South Africa in the semi-finals with New Zealand, Pakistan and Afghanistan fighting for the lone and final spot.
“We were written off after the first two games, but our belief tonight has gone a bit higher,” Maxwell said, who are likely to meet South Africa in the semi-finals.