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2020 in Review

Wisden’s ODI innings of the year: No.1 – Glenn Maxwell’s 108

T20I all-rounders
Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 5 minute read

First place in Wisden’s ODI innings of the year countdown, part of the 2020 in Review series, is Glenn Maxwell’s 108 against England at Manchester.

Glenn Maxwell 108 (90)

England v Australia
Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester
3rd ODI
September 16

When a 26-year-old Glenn Maxwell brought up his maiden ODI hundred, a 51-ball World Cup ton against Sri Lanka, it would have been unthinkable that the Victorian would wait another five and a half years before he would again raise his bat in acknowledgement of a century in ODI cricket.

Numbers will never do a player like Maxwell justice. One of cricket’s first batsmen to be dubbed a ‘360-degree player’, few have as many shots in the locker as Maxwell does. Possessing so many weapons in his arsenal must at times be burdensome; do you pull a ball for four through mid-wicket when you could also reverse lap the same delivery over short third man? Mere mortals don’t have decisions like that to make.

His talent is alluring. Not just for spectators, but for teammates and selectors. When it pays off with Maxwell, it really pays off. So when he blasts a 51-ball World Cup hundred or when he spanks a T20I 145*, it’s only human to want to see him do it more; bump him up the order and let him dictate games rather than react to them.

But when you do that to Maxwell and you’re expecting him to play his natural game higher up the order, you’re asking him to do something that only Jos Buttler and AB de Villiers – in striking above 110 while still scoring consistently – have really succeeded at in the history of ODI cricket.

In between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, that’s what was asked of Maxwell. Predominantly batting in the top six, Maxwell frustrated more than than he exhilarated. While still maintaining his freakish strike-rate, he passed 50 just three times from 22 innings at No.5. From No.6, that record improved to four 50s from 13 outings; he batted at No.7 just four times between World Cups. During the 2019 World Cup itself, Maxwell batted in four positions across 10 games and never passed 50. His highlight of the tournament was his 25-ball 46 not out against Sri Lanka after coming in during the 43rd over.

In six ODIs since the World Cup – against world champions England and fellow superpower India – Maxwell has been mesmeric. Placed back down at No.7, with the exception of a pair of promotions at the end of innings against India, and refreshed after taking an extended break from the game at the end of last year, the early indicators are that at 32, Maxwell may finally have found his home in ODI cricket. This year, his ODI scores read: 77 (59), 1 (8), 108 (90), 45 (19), 63* (29) and 59 (38).

Invariably now, when he comes to the crease, the game is set; Maxwell is reacting to a specific match scenario. Concerns over his game management are less relevant when he is almost always in search of quick runs from ball one. This was never more the case than against England in the series decider at Manchester, when Maxwell had no choice but to try and hit Australia out of trouble, and succeeded in spectacular style.

Chris Woakes and, erm, Joe Root had combined to leave Australia 73-5 in pursuit of 303 when Maxwell strode out to the crease. Accompanying him was the desperately out-of-form Alex Carey, who up until that point on the tour averaged 12.25. Following Maxwell in the order were the bowlers; Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa, a quartet without an ODI half-century between them in seven years. This was truly a hopeless cause.

After getting his eye in for a grand total of two balls, Maxwell started his innings in his own characteristic style, dispatching Jofra Archer into the empty stands. Perhaps carried away by Root’s success earlier in the innings – a spell that included a peach to clean bowl David Warner – Morgan kept the part-time offie on for four more overs with the new men at the wicket and rotated his quicks at the other end.

By the time Morgan took Root out of the attack, Maxwell had moved on to 35 from 30. By his standards, a sedate start but, crucially in the context of the match, Carey was given time to settle at the crease and rebuild his confidence.

Morgan chopped and changed as he sought to break the ever developing stand but Maxwell and Carey held firm, with the former particularly taking the attack to one of Morgan’s go-to men, Adil Rashid. Three sixes in successive Rashid overs left the leggie with figures of 0-49 off six; Maxwell was blunting Morgan’s sharpest weapon and Australia had nudged back into the game.

With Maxwell comfortably scoring at a rate better than a run a ball, the pressure was never really on Carey to up the rate. If the pair could bat to the end of the game, Australia would emerge victorious. When Maxwell reached his hundred (with a six, of course), Australia were in cruise control with 36 required off the final 28. Carey passed three figures in the following over and what looked implausible now looked routine.

That was until Rashid was brought back with 21 needed off the final three overs. His first delivery was swept sensibly by Carey for a single to bring Maxwell back on strike. Next up, Maxwell tried an almighty heave, seemingly attempting to hit the ball into the football stadium down the round, but fortunately, the ball fell safely and Maxwell came back for two. He did not heed that warning; in true Maxwellian fashion he tried to repeat the trick, this time only ballooning the ball to Tom Curran at short third man.

As he trudged off the field, the game now in the balance, you could imagine the headlines that were being written Down Under. Somehow, despite nearly masterminding one of the all-time great white-ball chases, his detractors, of which there are many, would be pinning the blame for Australia’s defeat firmly on his shoulders. Fortunately for Maxwell, he was vindicated as Starc made Morgan pay for a gamble of his own in bringing Rashid on for the final over.

“Maxi is in the team to do a specific role, to try to swing the momentum,” said Australia skipper Aaron Finch after the game. Finally, more than 100 games into his ODI career, Australia look to have solved the Maxwell conundrum.

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