Cricket World Cup 2023: ‘One-legged Glenn’ puts up ‘Big Show’ to take Australia to semi-finals

Glenn Maxwell conjured up magic when Australia thought it was all over, striking an astonishing double century to singlehandedly lift his team into the semifinals of the World Cup with a three-wicket win over Afghanistan here on Tuesday.

With his unbeaten 201 off 128 balls, which came on the back of some unbelievable hitting, Maxwell forced the thousands of heads totting the stands at the Wankhede Stadium to think if there eyes were deceiving them.

As Australia chased down 292 after slumping to 91 for seven in 18.3 overs and staring at an annihilation, everyone rubbed their eyes in disbelief as Maxwell went about his task batting on one leg after battling pain and exhaustion.

Afghanistan thought they had the match wrapped up, but Maxwell had other ideas. With some slice of luck, he launched into an over-eager Afghan attack, smashing 21 fours and 10 sixes to end the game in 46.5 overs.

With 12 points and a match left, Australia joined India (16 points) and South Africa (12 points) in the last four stage, while 11 incredibly talented Afghanistan cricketers, who had almost ensured that their fairy tale story does not reach its epilogue, found themselves on the wrong side of the result.

History will judge if the knock at Wankhede, in terms of match situation, could be termed the greatest in ODI cricket. Who knows, it could act as the perfect fuel for Australia to win their sixth World Cup.

Batting on one leg after suffering from cramps, Maxwell just used his strong core and stable base to practice range-hitting as Hashmatullaah Shahidi’s bowlers erred tactically, feeding him with length balls on slot, which allowed him to just plonk his front-foot and use his brute strength to let them all land into the Wankhede stands.

There was practically no footwork required and Afghanistan bowlers didn’t alter the length for ones as Maxwell was an example of what stand and deliver means.

The decision to keep Rashid Khan’s last spell for the back-end also backfired as Maxwell had skipper Pat Cummins for company, who channelised his “inner Cheteshwar Pujara” (12 not out in 68 balls) in their record-breaking 202-run stand for the eighth wicket.

Once known as the ‘Big Show’, a demeaning term used to describe a young Maxwell’s early days of inconsistence, the cricket world on Tuesday witnessed what the coinage meant.

He was in unbearable pain, needing extended medical time-outs even as Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott looked agitated standing on the boundary line.

Maxwell got up and played a reverse slog sweep off pacer Azmatullah Omarzai, 20 metres into the stands in the third man region.

The more intense the pain, the more brutal the assault as his final couple of sixes were less of slog and more of swatting a fly out of his presence with disdain.

He didn’t celebrate his hundred but had his arms raised once the win was achieved as he could smile through pain.

Earlier, buoyed by Sachin Tendulkar’s encouraging words on the eve of the match, 21-year-old Ibrahim Zadran etched his name in Afghanistan’s cricket history by scoring the country’s first ever World Cup hundred that propelled them to a respectable 291 for 5.

Zadran anchored the innings with an unbeaten 129 off 143 balls as Afghanistan scored 64 in last five overs against five-time champions in a do-or-die game as far as their maiden semi-final appearance is concerned.

Zadran who made his ODI debut just four years ago, produced a terrific knock in a key clash to record his fifth ton in only 26 ODIs.

He also has five fifties to his credit. Zadran also became the first batter from his nation to score a ton against Australia.

Vindicating his captain’s call at the toss to bat first, Zadran’s unhurried knock showcased his high-class temperament, fitness as well as calibre as he batted for the entirety of the Afghanistan innings, taking them to a fighting total on a batting-friendly pitch.

Zadran faced 143 balls and cracked eight fours and three sixes to make the highest score for any Afghanistan batter in World Cup tournaments since their maiden appearance two editions ago, surpassing Samiullah Shinwari’s 96 against Scotland at Dunedin in the 2015 World Cup.

“I had a good chat with Sachin Tendulkar yesterday, he shared a lot of his experiences that I can’t express. I’m very thankful to him for sharing his experiences and giving me a lot of confidence,” Zadran said at the break.

With Australia pacers not finding any assistance off the surface or in the air right from the beginning, Afghanistan’s approach was largely conservative, but there were some sparks of brilliance too.

Azmatullah Omarzai smacked two sixes and a four to make an 18-ball 22 to provide Afghanistan with much-needed impetus in the middle overs. He was dismissed by Adam Zampa (1/58) who now has 20 wickets in the World Cup so far.

Towards the end, Rashid Khan, who perhaps did not bowl at all during the lead-up to this contest, hammered a brisk 35 not out off 18 balls (2x4s, 3x6s).

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