Australia’s semifinal spot confirmed after Maxwell double-ton

There is no video from Tunbridge Wells, and only people who were there forty years ago can comment on whether Glenn Maxwell’s incredible feat of an innings to propel Australia to the 2023 World Cup semifinal has matched or even exceeded Kapil Dev’s amazing feats. Australia rallied from 91/7 to chase down Afghanistan’s 291 thanks to an incredible innings of 201* off 128 balls from Maxwell, who struggled, stumbled, batted on one leg, and cramped.

Pat Cummins contributed 12 off 68 to Maxwell’s remarkable 202-run eighth-wicket stand, which set a record for highest ODI score when chasing. Beyond the figures, however, Maxwell challenged belief and his physical limitations in a theatre of the absurd that took place in Mumbai, the spiritual birthplace of Indian cricket.

After spending nearly five hours in the hot and muggy conditions of this renowned stadium, Maxwell struck a single to long on in the 41st over of the chase, with victory still 55 runs away. Maxwell then convulsed and collapsed on the ground in agony. The referee was anxious, and the paramedic rushed over to tend to him, not for the first time. Australia’s No. 10 hitter, Adam Zampa, had come down the stairs from the changing area, prepared to attack. Nevertheless, Maxwell continued. Without even shifting his feet, he struck five sixes and five fours in a row, relying only on his hand-eye coordination to propel Australia past an incredulous Afghanistan.

Half an hour and a half, before Maxwell (who also hit 21 fours) launched his tenth projectile into the Mumbai sky, Hashmatullah Shahidi and his crew, had every cause to feel that they had taken out another previous champion, possibly the best of them all, this tournament. They scared the defending champions so much that Mitchell Starc left without edging a ball. As it happened, it had gone to the stump ‘keeper.

Under the lights, Azmatullah Omarzai and Naveen ul Haq found their swing and each grabbed a pair of wickets. After the latter had dismissed Josh Inglis and David Warner off consecutive balls, Maxwell left the pitch to prevent the hat-trick. After that, Marnus Labuschagne ran himself out, and Rashid Khan, the superstar, added wickets of Starc and Stoinis. Afghanistan was bursting with energy on the pitch, while Australia was faltering.

Then, Noor Ahmad bowled the crucial 22nd over. The left-arm legspinner won an LBW appeal with the umpire after forcing Maxwell to play down the incorrect line with the second delivery. Maxwell had started towards the dressing room after reviewing, more with hope than certainty, when DRS projected the ball to be bouncing over the stumps. After three valid deliveries, he tried to sweep but was unable to control the bounce, so he lobbed a straightforward catch to short fine-leg, where Mujeeb Ur Rahman strangely dropped it. It was Maxwell on 33.

For some reason, those two reprieves flicked a switch inside him. He then started to execute his shots. In the next over, Rashid nearly went over the ropes with a half-arm jab, and Noor whistled to the mid-wicket fence with a slog-swipe. Afghanistan was so far ahead of them that they failed to notice the change in the situation, even after Maxwell reached a half-century with 51 balls. He then reached his next fifty runs in just twenty-five balls, and the people in the Afghanistan dugout could now be seen fidgeting in their seats.

It was a depressing conclusion to a day that had held out so much hope from the perspective of Afghanistan. After winning the toss, they wisely chose to put Australia under pressure on the scoreboard on a pitch that is infamously difficult to defend. To become the first Afghan batter to score a century in a World Cup, Ibrahim Zadran pieced together half-century stands with Rahmat Shah and Shahidi. Zadran made 129 off 143 by using his bat all the way through. Afghanistan reached their greatest score in the history of the ODI World Cup thanks to a stunning 18-ball 35 from Rashid Khan, who also contributed 75 from the final six overs. But at the end of the evening, it was all just footnotes.


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