Sometimes there just aren’t enough words and all you can do is stop and watch in awe at the spectacle unfolding in front of you. Glenn Maxwell’s unbeaten 201 to see Australia over the line against Afghanistan was one of those moments, it was a spectacular show of individual quality and one that anyone in attendance may well be telling their children about in years to come.
Hope was all but diminished when Mitchell Starc was out and Australia were 91 for seven chasing a good target by Afghanistan of 292, but Maxwell held firm.
He was aided by dropped catches and careless fielding, but that does not take away from the fact that his innings was one of the best in the format. All of that aside from considering he missed the preceding match against England with a concussion sustained in a freak golf injury where he fell off the back of a cart.
The innings was far from straightforward. When he reached his half century, many assumed it would be just a consolation milestone. Even when he reached his century, there was still a long way to go in the innings.
Maxwell is a player who has been out a lot in the 90s and a century provokes a wild celebration but on this occasion, there was only time for a brief nod. This time there was a job to do.
Past 150 and the back spasms has taken their toll, he could hardly run, but the sixes flowed. A final maximum to bring up the iconic milestone and, against all odds, Australia had won and qualified for the semi-final. Maxwell might well be the hero of not just the night, but the entire tournament.
In the tournament to date, Maxwell had scored a century against the Netherlands in Delhi, but had not scored even a half century in Australia’s other matches before the clash in Mumbai. There was nothing to suggest the mammoth feat was on the cards, but those who come it at number six are not often afforded so many overs with which to make their mark. He even joked after the match that it was time to “return to dad duties” having become a father on the eve of the tournament.
Scoring a double century in ODI cricket is a rare feat in itself. In the 20th century, only Australia’s Belinda Clark had reached the milestone, in a match against Denmark in 1997, the first in the men’s game would not come until Sachin Tendulkar in 2010.
It was not the highest score in the format, which belongs to Rohit Sharma’s 264 from 173 against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens in 2014. There are also nine scores higher than Maxwell’s 201 in the history books, including three from Sharma, but all of those have come in a high-scoring first innings.
To score big in a chase is a feat in itself, and to do so when your side have their backs against the wall is another thing entirely, it is what makes Ben Stokes so crucial for England.
Maxwell did not have it easy. Aside from the concussion, he battled against back spasms to score only the third double-century in the history of World Cup. Pat Cummins, who supported Maxwell with his 12 from 68 balls, could only say afterwards that it was "just ridiculous”.
He said: “It’s got to be the greatest ODI innings that’s ever happened.”
Virat Kohli said on Instagram: “Only you could do this. Freak,” following it up with the mind-blowing emoji and tagging his Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate Maxwell in it.
A truly great innings is more than just numbers, although Maxwell’s certainly impressed on that front too, but it is the ability to perform in a situation, and drag your side over the line against the odds, that makes for a truly remarkable and memorable occasion.
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