How much pain is too much, if I may ask? When will you finally benefit from the battle? Never, if you’re Glenn Maxwell.
Shortly after he walked in to bat on Tuesday and the wickets fell like a pack of cards, part of Maxwell’s body was almost gone. Barely able to run without limping, he wore a brace to support his creaking knees and walked upright between the eyebrows.
But just when it looked like the pain had gotten the better of him, Maxwell pushed back. He left no stone unturned to prove his faith in guiding the five-time champions to a thrilling victory.
Aptly nicknamed ‘The Big Show’, Maxwell executed shots with the grace of a trapeze artist, as he stayed on 128 balls with 21 fours and 10 sixes. The all-rounder, fighting against severe cramps in his chest and calf muscles, thumped one big blow after another, in favor of the area down on the ground at batting-friendly Wankhede. As the six years rained, the Afghans looked victorious with wonder. Skipper Pat Cummins had the best view of anyone as Maxwell piled things up with a six to get to her double century in storybook style.
Australia were all but bowled out at 91 for seven, chasing 292 in search of victory. Afghanistan’s spirits were soon lifted but Maxwell would not relent. That we came to that understanding only later.
“I’m leaving if they find him (Maxwell),” Mark Bennet was heard telling his son. When asked if Australia had a chance of winning, the 70-year-old responded by shrugging his shoulders and taking a sip from his drink. “We hope to stay a little longer in India,” he said quickly. His voice was grim, eyebrows drawn together in a frown, and still his blue eyes twinkled with humor. Meanwhile, his son, Henry, paid little attention to his displeasure and was apparently concerned about Maxwell’s deteriorating health.
The lanky full-back struggled in pain as the low-capacity Wankhede crowd watched in horror. One minute the young and determined Maxwell was cruising powerfully to a batting milestone, the next he leaped into the air, turned down, stumbled, stopped, and fell flat on the ground, as the cramp hit him as bullet. “It doesn’t look good. I hope it will stand for a while,” said Henry.
His prayers were finally answered.
Maxwell terrorized Afghanistan’s spin troika to win the match with 201 not out, which is only the third double century in World Cup history. However, he was forced to give up an lbw decision when he was given out to spinner Noor Ahmad on 27 and suffered a major setback when he fell on 33 when Mujeeb Ur Rahman took a simple chance to reach while on his feet.
Despite having more than one first-class spinner, Afghanistan had little idea of how to take Maxwell’s wicket through the final overs, or indeed how to moderate the scoring. The side will have missed an opportunity to put the game to rest with the ball, with coach Jonathan Trott admitting that ‘it will be a bitter pill’. Indeed, after winning the toss and electing to bat first, for much of the contest, this seemed to be a performance with the likes of Rashid Khan, Ibrahim Zadran, and Naveen-ul-Haq in risk putting together for a long time.
Instead, the Afghans were given a harsh lesson in the realities of modern ODI cricket, with Australia chasing down the target with 19 balls to spare. After a top-order debacle, Maxwell needed an alliance and found an ideal partner in Cummins, who held firm for 12 not out in an extraordinary unbroken partnership of 202.
It was a stand that broke the back of the relentless Afghanistan fielders, although it might not have been enough if Maxwell himself had not stuck bravely to the end. Australia have now qualified for the semi-finals with a game to spare after back-to-back wins over unbeaten hosts India and South Africa.
“We teach our children not to give up on anything too easily. That’s our way of life. You saw a glimpse of him here tonight. This is what makes this side so different from others. The boys made me very proud,” Bennet Senior said.
Henry lived his father’s mood with a smile and raised his arm to show a tattoo that read, ‘No Pain, No Gain’. A few meters away, another father-son duo from Australia broke into an impromptu dance, encouraging others to try a step or two.
“It’s coming home this year, everyone is prepared,” Henry said. “People wrote us off after those two huge wins, but our performances silenced the critics. Happy about that. I’ll get 2-3 extra jerseys for the final now, in case someone wants to borrow.”
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