It is unbelievable that Maxwell’s sequence of impossibility was used to save Australia, according to Geoff Lemon.
At times, in any sport, one may find themselves simply observing and wondering: what just occurred? Occasionally, it goes beyond our typical understanding. Glenn Maxwell is known for creating such moments more often than others. However, this particular instance in Mumbai on Tuesday evening was the ultimate pinnacle. It was not just one moment, but a series of them. A prolonged chain of impossibilities that continued to unfold under the bright lights, amidst the haze and the never-ending uproar of celebration, leaving us in a state of confusion and excited energy.
For many years, it was uncommon for a player to score two hundred runs in a one-day cricket match. Belinda Clark was the first to achieve this feat against Denmark, which was an exception to the norm. In 2010, Sachin Tendulkar became the first man to score a double hundred in a one-day match. Since then, nine others have also accomplished this feat, but all of them were in the first innings and against weaker teams. These performances were impressive, but not under pressure. No one had ever scored a double hundred in a run chase, while their team was far behind and needed a win.
Maxwell’s dilemma arose amidst another predicament heading in the opposite direction. Afghanistan entered this World Cup as the team that failed to win a single game in the previous edition, a team that may have put up a fight but would undoubtedly falter under the pressure of the tournament. However, they defied expectations. By now, they had already won four matches, and securing a fifth against Australia would position them for a strong chance at a semi-final spot.
By the time this game was three-quarters finished, the outcome was in their control. Ibrahim Zadran, a 21-year-old player from their country, had achieved their country’s first World Cup century, undaunted by the high profile of the opposing team. Rashid Khan, equally comfortable playing in Adelaide as anywhere else, had made impressive runs towards the end. A score of 291 was already challenging, but the second half of the game saw an impressive bowling effort.
This innings becomes a wave. Naveen-ul-Haq, the only specialist fast bowler in a team of spin, searing the ball off Travis Head’s edge for nought, then into Mitchell Marsh’s pad after the Australian giant has battered two sixes in no time. Azmatullah Omarzai, the seaming all‑rounder pressed into early service, bending a wildly moving delivery past David Warner’s wild shot. Josh Inglis caught at slip next ball.
Maxwell narrowly avoided a hat-trick with a lucky edge. Marnus Labuschagne hesitated and twisted his bat as he tried to dive for a run, resulting in a run out. Rashid came into play, getting Marcus Stoinis out with an unusual reverse sweep. Mitchell Starc was so confused that he didn’t even bother to review a caught behind that he didn’t actually hit.
At the moment, Afghanistan has lost seven wickets and has scored 91 runs. They need 201 more runs to win and it seems like their only option. The focus now is on how much they can beat the Australians by to improve their net run rate and prove themselves as a top team. Maxwell has 22 runs at this point, but the question is if he can score a 50 to minimize the damage. He successfully appeals an lbw decision and also has a dropped catch, but it won’t make a difference. He will eventually be dismissed.
He begins to crouch down, executing powerful cross-bat shots from a low position. A few boundaries from Rashid, followed by the left-arm spinner, Noor Ahmad. The team reaches 50 runs. Noor and Mujeeb Ur Rahman hit a couple of sixes, while Pat Cummins focuses on defense at the opposite end. With half of their batting time remaining, there is no need to hurry and lose wickets unnecessarily.
Maxwell reaches a century, providing some comfort on a difficult evening. He has been dismissed many times in the 90s. He begins his batting later in the game and does not hesitate to take big swings when he is close to a milestone. In previous instances of scoring a hundred for Australia, he becomes ecstatic. He celebrates as if it could be his last opportunity, which is often the case. However, today he simply acknowledges the achievement with a brief bat wave before returning to focus on the game.
As he reaches a score in the 120s, he repeatedly hits Mohammad Nabi for four runs and manages to hit a six. However, his body begins to experience cramps. The weather in Mumbai is extremely humid. He has been playing in the field for 50 overs, bowled for 10 of them, and started batting in the ninth over of Australia’s turn. Despite feeling exhausted, he continues to play, hitting Rashid for six and scoring two fours off Naveen’s faster balls.
As he approaches 150, he is unable to continue running. Despite having five Afghan fielders positioned on the boundary line, shots that would typically result in a double only result in a single. He manages to crawl for a single but then falls onto his back, his legs seized by cramps. He is in genuine pain. The medical team helps him stand up. Cummins gestures for Adam Zampa, who is ready to bat, to come in. However, Maxwell refuses and chooses to stay on the field.
At this point, it is not only about running. He is unable to even move his feet in order to make shots. He remains stationary and relies solely on hand-eye coordination to make contact. While some shots are missed, many are successful. It is expected that at some point, a shot will be hit into the air. However, this does not happen. Instead of trying to hit sixes, he strategically places the ball between fielders, resulting in four runs. And then there’s that incredible six: a switch-hit pull shot from Azmatullah that soars effortlessly into the night sky, almost unbelievable to witness.
It is the 44th over and the player is on 170 runs. His legs are starting to function better and he manages to hit a few singles. Together with Cummins, they successfully defend against Rashid’s last over. By the 47th over, the game is won. With a six, six, and four, Maxwell secures the win and reaches a personal score of 195, also achieving a double century with a sweep shot. The partnership between the two players is now at 202 runs. Cummins has scored 12 runs from 68 balls, while Maxwell has an impressive 201 runs from 128 balls. Australia has secured their spot in the semi-finals while Afghanistan is left feeling defeated. It seemed like an impossible feat, but it happened nonetheless.