Glenn Maxwell’s stunning 201 not out guided Australia into the World Cup semi-finals as the five-time champions pulled off a stunning three-wicket win against Afghanistan in Mumbai on Tuesday. At 91-7, chasing 292, Australia were to join title holders England, 1996 champions Pakistan and 1992 winners Sri Lanka as yet another significant scalp in Afghanistan at this World Cup. Crucially, however, it is recalled that Maxwell fell soon after on 33 when Mujeeb Ur Rahman managed to get a simple chance at short off spinner Noor Ahmad.
“It would be nice if it wasn’t a chance, I’ve had a really interesting life out there,” said Maxwell, who is aptly nicknamed ‘The Big Show’. He made Afghanistan pay with an astounding 128-ball innings featuring 21 fours and 10 sixes as he was only the third batsman after New Zealand’s Martin Guptill and West Indies’ Chris Gayle to score a World Cup double century.
Maxwell finished the match in style with almost three runs to spare when he blasted Mujeeb for another six. The 35-year-old’s international top score was just his fourth century in 136 games at this level, but second in the competition after scoring the fastest century in men’s World Cup history, off only 40 balls, against Holland.
Australian captain Pat Cummins was 12 not out but played his part by holding firm in an unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 202. There was another late twist in a dramatic touch when Maxwell, who was 146 old, violent attack of cramp. hobbled through for one.
But after treatment on the field, a still struggling Maxwell continued to put pressure on the Afghan attack with an impressive array of shots.
‘I feel shocking’
“Horrible, I feel shocking. It was quite hot when we were pitching, I haven’t done a lot of high intensity exercise in the heat. It affected me today, I was lucky to hold off until the end. ,” Maxwell said.
Among his repertoire of shots was an extraordinary reverse hit for a six by paceman Azmatullah Omarzai — denied Maxwell an earlier hat-trick.
Afghanistan, despite this win, are still in the last four but will have to beat second placed South Africa and hopefully other results will go their way to qualify for the knockout stage.
The night seemed to belong to Ibrahim Zadran, whose 129 not out in a total of 291-5 became the first hundred by an Afghan batsman at the World Cup. This left Australia needing to better their previous World Cup match-winning score of 287 against New Zealand in the 1996 quarter-final in Chennai.
But opener Travis Head fell for a duck, caught behind a brilliant Naveen-ul-Haq delivery that went sharply, and the paceman also had Mitchell Marsh lbw for 24.
Australia’s 43-2 then became 49-4 as Omarzai hit back-to-back deliveries, veteran opener David Warner clean bowling the left-hander’s ugly heave across the line before Josh Inglis edged to first slip.
Maxwell survived the hat-trick, not less than keeper Ikram Alikhil. Australia were 69-5 when a mix-up with Maxwell saw Marnus Labuschagne run out by hitting Rahmat Shah straight from midwicket before leg-spinner Rashid Khan removed Marcus Stonis and Mitchell Starc as the Afghanistan crowd roared.
But then came Maxwell’s big comeback, with Australia 112-7. “Really disappointed. Cricket is a funny game, it was unbelievable,” said Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi.
Earlier, opener Zadran took Afghanistan to their highest ever World Cup total topping their 288 against the West Indies at Headingley in 2019.
Australia initially kept Afghanistan in check after losing the toss, although they struggled for wickets as Zadran completed his fifth hundred in 27 ODIs, off 131 balls, including seven fours.
However, Zadran accelerated after reaching three figures with Rashid making a quick 35 not out during an unbroken rapid fire stand of 58.
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