By James Scott
At 49-4, Australia’s Glenn Maxwell walked out to the middle, facing Azmatullah Omarzai’s hat-trick delivery. 220 deliveries later, Maxwell hobbled off with 201 runs to his name, carrying his team from 91-7 to a remarkable chase of 291 against Afghanistan.
“The most remarkable thing you will probably ever see in cricket” lauded Iain Smith on commentary.
“The only way that could be eclipsed was if that happens in knockout cricket” explained an astounded Stuart Broad.
Australia’s pantomime villain recognised greatness as it unfolded before his eyes.
Just how good was Maxwell’s 201*?
No one has ever scored an ODI double hundred whilst chasing a score. It was just the 3rd ODI double hundred at the Cricket World Cup. Maxwell scored 31 boundaries, including 21 fours and 10 sixes, putting the Afghan bowlers to the sword.
That would make the innings a great innings – as memorable as Martin Guptill’s 237* against the West Indies in the 2015 event. Not an all-timer, but one that enters the list of top World Cup moments around the fringes of the top 20.
However, when you analyse the wider situation, suddenly the innings defies belief.
Australia had to beat Afghanistan to secure qualification for the semi-finals of the World Cup – a loss would see them level on points with Afghanistan at five wins apiece, as Pakistan and New Zealand were waiting in the wings.
ESPNCricInfo gave Australia a measly 4.82% chance of winning the match when Maxwell came out to bat. When Mitchell Starc was caught behind off Rashid Khan in the 19th over, Australia must have painfully accepted that the points would be going to Afghanistan.
No one told this to Glenn Maxwell.
CricInfo’s Win Probability meter displayed 99.62% to Afghanistan. 0.38% to Australia, simply because Glenn Maxwell was there. Pat Cummins is a big hitter with the bat, yet even he realised that Maxwell was Australia’s only faint hope – Cummins scored 12 in the partnership of 202, making sure there would be someone to partner Maxwell to the bitter end.
The innings was not chanceless, but very few of the great innings are. Ben Stokes was dropped by Marcus Harris at Headingly as part of his incredible 135*, an innings played in a similar vein.
At 101-7, Maxwell was given out LBW off Noor Ahmed. Maxwell reviewed out of hope, knowing that his wicket would seal the fate of the Australians. Ball tracking had the delivery going over the top of leg stump. No one was more surprised at the decision than Maxwell himself, who was already halfway towards the changing rooms when ball tracking was being displayed on the big screen. He spun round 180 degrees and began his attack on Afghanistan’s bowlers.
Just a few overs later, Maxwell was incredulously dropped by Mujeeb at short fine leg with the score at 112-7. These lives kicked him into gear, and with 180 runs still to get, Australia’s superman “needed to sort of tell myself [Maxwell] to start playing my shots and be a bit more proactive”.
Glenn Maxwell was on a mission to save Australia’s World Cup campaign. And he did so whilst suffering from debilitating back spasms. He bowled 10 overs in the Mumbai heat, before dragging his pads on to save his team from a humiliating thrashing. When he scored his hundred, Adam Zampa was ready to take over, as Maxwell could not run.
By 140, he was limping between creases, physically incapable of moving. 170 runs into his incredible knock, Maxwell fell onto his back between overs, in so much pain it that seemed impossible for him to continue.
In response Maxwell dug his feet into the ground and swung at every delivery. He flicked the spinners to leg, and reverse scooped the seamers over the boundary. Every connection reached the boundary rope or cleared it entirely. Afghanistan lost their way, frightened by the immense power of Australia’s all-rounder.
Glenn Maxwell may not have won the trophy with this knock but in the end, it will go down in Cricket World Cup folklore. In the 4705 matches of ODI cricket, there has been no greater innings played. A World Cup game, with Australia’s tournament on the line, at 91-7 with just a 0.38% chance of winning, Maxwell scored 201*.
“It has got to be the greatest thing that has ever happened. One of those days people will say, I was at the stadium for this game” said Pat Cummins, who had the privilege of watching the assault from the non-striker’s end.
For the 18,872 fans who turned up to the Wankhede on a Tuesday night, they can say with pride that they saw the most astonishing ODI innings ever played, courtesy of Glenn Maxwell.
Image: davidmolloyphotography.com via Wikimedia Commons