Maxwell 201* brings home the Australian miracle and a place in the World Cup semi-final

Maxwell 201* brings home the Australian miracle and a place in the World Cup semi-final

Australia 293 for 7 (Maxwell 201*, Rashid 2-44) won Afghanistan 291 for 5 (Ibrahim 129*, Rashid 35*, Hazlewood 2-39) for three wickets

At one stage, Australia were 91 for 7 chasing 292. Then Glenn Maxwell Glenn Maxwell smashed his way to a double century and they not only won the game but also sealed their place in the World Cup semi-finals.
After Ibrahim Zadran became Afghanistan’s first World Cup centurion, Naveen-ul-Haq and Azmatullah Omarzai tore apart Australia’s top order as they threatened to script a famous victory at Wankhede. But Maxwell intervened with a sensational 201 not out, 179 of which were scored in an unbroken 202-run partnership with his captain Pat Cummins, to change the script. The result confirmed Australia’s place in the final four, alongside hosts India and South Africa, and left Afghanistan heartbroken.

The chase wasn’t the only thing that became increasingly close towards the end. Maxwell, after having played all 50 overs in the Mumbai heat, started having severe cramps. They were his legs. They had simply stopped working. He looked in agonizing pain in the 41st over, prompting the next batsman, No. 10 Adam Zampa, to wait by the boundary while the physiotherapist patched him up to move on.

And boy, did he do it. Batting without even moving his feet, Maxwell continued hitting sixes until he achieved the Australian miracle. Two hundred and one unbeaten streaks in just 128 balls with 21 fours and 10 sixes. It was one of the best ODI innings of all time.

Maxwell had come in to meet Omarzai’s hat-trick in the ninth over, when Australia were 49 for 4 chasing 292. He was then involved in a mix-up, which cost Australia the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne for 14. When Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Starc fell soon after, leaving Australia at 91 for 7, the game looking over. Except he wasn’t. Maxwell pressed on and Cummins stuck to him like a limpet, contributing just 12 runs (off 68 balls) to a two-century partnership.

With 21 needed in the last four overs for Australia’s victory and Maxwell’s double hundred, he scored 6,6,4,6 against Mujeeb Ur Rahman to deliver the double knockout blow.

Mujeeb could have shortened Maxwell’s innings by 33 had he not dropped a sitter with a short penalty. Then Maxwell started doing Maxwell things. He cut Noor Ahmad through mid-wicket. He hit Mujeeb over his head and also carried Mohammed Nabi through mid-wicket. The reverse sweep and other trick shots were also on display in Mumbai as he reached a hundred off 76 balls. Then he needed just 52 balls for his second hundred. At the other end, Cummins fought back resolutely. That was all he needed to do.

Rashid Khan was the only Afghanistan bowler to escape the one-man wrecking crew that was Maxwell. Afghanistan had picked four spinners for this match, but it was Naveen and Omarzai who caused serious damage to Australia’s chase. They bowled test match lines and lengths and bowled the new ball both ways, under the lights. Naveen first picked off Travis Head with an outswinger before pinning Mitchell Marsh lbw with an inswinger. Naveen could also have dismissed David Warner for 4 if Rahmat Shah had not missed a difficult chance at the gully. Warner added 14 to his tally before Omarzai brought down his off stump with a swinger.

Omarzai is only 23 and was playing his 20th ODI, but he is so skilled that he can build off Warner’s dismissal. After hitting a long length and bowling a maiden to Warner, he filled up more and broke through his defence. Having led the powerplay during his stint in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) earlier in the year, Omarzai proved to the world that he could do the job in international cricket too. The next ball was an outswinger to Josh Inglis, who took first slip. The next ball was another outswinger, but Maxwell denied Omarzai the hat-trick and the rest was history.

After successfully ending three chases in a row, Afghanistan might have been tempted to do the same on Tuesday. But Hashmatullah Shahidi withstood that and backed his batsmen to put runs on the board on a slightly atypical Wankhede track, which was on the drier side. Ibrahim led the way and batted through the innings on a hot afternoon to remain unbeaten on 129 off 143 balls. The highlight of his innings was a run for four off Cummins in the 14th over. Later in the work, he, along with Rashid, who scored an unbeaten 35 off 18 balls, attacked Australia’s attack. Ibrahim and Rashid scored 58 together off just 27 balls to lift Afghanistan to 291, but their joy turned to disbelief and then helplessness on the night.