Chasing 292 for victory, Australia had slumped to 91 for 7 in the 19th over, before Maxwell and Cummins came together in an unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 202 – a record partnership
that was made all the more remarkable by Maxwell’s near-incapacitation with cramp midway through his innings.
With Cummins holding up an end for his unbeaten 12 from 68 balls, Maxwell cracked a total of 21 fours and 10 sixes in his 128-ball stay, including a succession of extraordinary swats across the line as he trusted his eye to clear the ropes while his legs were unable to move.
On several occasions, it seemed he might be forced to retire hurt, with Adam Zampa padded up on the boundary’s edge to replace him, but Maxwell regained sufficient mobility to finish the chase in glorious fashion – with a volley of six, six, four, six off Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the last of which allowed him to become the first Australian, and ninth man overall, to reach 200 in an ODI innings.
Asked how he was feeling after his exertions, Maxwell said at the Player-of-the-Match presentation: “Horrific! I feel shocking! It was obviously quite hot when we’re fielding today, and I haven’t really done a whole lot of high-intensity exercise in the heat, and it certainly got a hold of me today.
“We came out with a plan to stay at the same end for a little bit until I could get some movement back, and luckily enough I was able to stick it out to the end.”
Having already made a World Cup-record 40-ball hundred against Netherlands, Maxwell played down his performance, partly because he required a significant slice of early fortune before he could produce his match-turning knock.
He arrived at the crease in the ninth over to face a hat-trick ball from a pumped-up Azmatullah Omarzai, and duly survived a review for lbw after edging a pinpoint delivery off the line of his off stump, but required several further chances before he found his range.
On 27, he successfully overturned an lbw appeal from Noor Ahmad that was shown to be slipping over the top of his stumps, but in the same over, he was badly dropped by Mujeeb at short backward square, a reprieve that would have left Australia down and out at 112 for 8.
“Look, it would have been nice if it was chanceless,” Maxwell said. “I lived a charmed life out there. I was very lucky. And I suppose I just made the most of that. I feel like I’ve had those types of innings before, where I’ve been given a chance and I haven’t made the most of it, so to see it through tonight with a not out at the end is something I’m really proud of.”
His captain, however, was less reserved about the spectacle he had witnessed up close from the non-striker’s end. “Just ridiculous … I don’t know how you describe that,” Cummins said at the post-match presentation. “Maxi was out of this world. It’s got to be the greatest ODI innings that’s ever happened.”
As the innings progressed, and it became clear that Australia had overturned a match situation that at one stage had given them a 0.21% chance of winning, Maxwell’s incredulous team-mates in the Australian dressing-room could be seen marvelling at his strokeplay.
“It was just one of those days when you go, ‘yep, when that happened. I was here at the stadium’,” Cummins said. “We feel very lucky to be here.
“I couldn’t get on strike,” he joked, when asked how the pair had gone about building their partnership. “You just [let] Maxi do his thing … I mean, how am I going to say anything to someone like that? He was great. Whenever you’re chasing, he’s always got a plan. Even from 200 behind, he’s still mapping out a way to win the game.”
For his part, Maxwell said that his lbw reprieve had been the moment that he realised the route he needed to take to rescue the match for Australia.
“[We didn’t plan] too much, to be honest. Basically, we stuck to our own batting plans as much as we possibly could. And I suppose for me, it was still trying to be positive, still trying to take them on and try and produce bad balls, or something else I could score off.
“I felt like if I just defended my way through, they would have been able to put me under a bit of pressure. The lbw that was just going over the top, that was probably the kickstart I needed, to tell myself I needed to start playing some shots and be a bit more proactive.”
Had Australia failed to battle back, Afghanistan would have leapfrogged them on 10 points in the World Cup standings, and left their semi-final progress under pressure, with both New Zealand and Pakistan also challenging for the top four. Instead, they are confirmed of a place with one match still to come, and after two early losses to India and South Africa, Maxwell admitted it was a pleasing result.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I think after the first two games, everyone was pretty quick to write us off, and to come back and win six in a row is a great effort from this group. The belief is always there and to win a game like tonight, hopefully that belief spreads through the change-room.”
Cummins added that the result, and the manner in which it had been achieved, would have been noted by their title rivals as well.
“I think it’s important, not only for our team thinking that you can win from anywhere, but the opposition look at that as well,” he said. “You start mapping your 50 overs out with that in mind, and you maybe use the bowlers a little bit differently. You have to when someone’s running that hot.”
Afghanistan’s captain, Hashmatullah Shahidi, admitted he was “very disappointed” as he reflected on a golden opportunity for his team to make more history.
“Cricket is a funny game. It was unbelievable for us,” he said. “We were in the game, our bowlers started very well, but at the end of the day, the dropped chance hurt us. That was the moment that we missed, and after that, Maxwell didn’t stop. He played every kind of shots, and I can give credit to him.”
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