27/02/2024

Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell (Picture: Cricket Australia/Website)

A see-sawing contest between Australia and Afghanistan played out at the Adelaide Oval on Friday night. The standout for Australia was all-rounder Glenn Maxwell who batted brilliantly and fielded impeccably to bring Australia the win.

Looking likely to miss out on their chance to defend their ICC World Cup title, the Australians did everything they could against an Afghanistan outfit that threw everything at them. The Australians need England to lose to Sri Lanka to make the final after a four-run win in Adelaide.

Maxwell contributed the highest score with the bat (54 not out off 32 balls) helping to tick over the runs when he joined Marcus Stoinis in the middle. He kept the runs flowing from one end while Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, and Kane Richardson all fell for 20 runs at the end of the first innings.

Post-match Maxwell described to the media how he just went about playing the game in front of him despite the pressure on the net-run rate to qualify for the semi-final and the trying conditions.

“I think when I was batting I was just trying to be as positive as possible because I was looking for boundary options but in the same position I was batting at six, there wasn’t as much behind me to sort of go hell for leather so I couldn’t strike at 250 [strike rate] consistently,” Maxwell explained.

“As I said the conditions weren’t exactly favourable for batting at the start of the day, it was a little bit slow, there was a little bit of inconsistent bounce and so it was really weird to try and ‘safe slog’ or safe power hit.”

The Australian batting innings was hallmarked by plenty of big-hitting performances by David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Stoinis, and Maxwell. Warner got out of the gate strongly hitting back-to-back boundaries in the second over with three more fours to come throughout his innings before being bowled by Naveen.

Warner was joined in the middle by Mitch Marsh who struck the first sixes of the match however he was just shy of the half-century (48 off 30) when he was caught by Gurbaz off Mujeeb’s bowling.

The hot start by the Australians was quantified by the five boundaries scored inside the first four overs with the 50 coming up inside the sixth over.

The highlight of this innings was the partnership between Stoinis (25 off 21) and Maxwell (54* off 32) which saw them notch up a 53-run partnership to help the Australians to their total of 168. They struck six fours and four sixes combined to give the Australians a total of 168.

Marcus Stoinis (left) and Mitch Marsh (right)(Image: Izhar Khan)

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When looking at this game, it could be argued that it was nearly lost at team selection with Mitchell Starc, a surprising omission. Given his ability to open the bowling in his traditional fashion as well as his new role of bowling through the middle overs it meant that his flexibility and variation as a bowler was missing.

Afghanistan head coach Jonathon Trott spoke about the curveballs thrown by the Australians during selection with Starc expected to play.

“Richardson [we planned for], we are not quite sure why Starc didn’t play so we had to adjust to that as well.”

He was omitted for South Australian fast bowler Kane Richardson who would play on his former home deck at Adelaide Oval.

It is argued that Australian missed the bowling experience that Starc possesses at the level while bringing in Richardson (bowled four overs for 48 runs conceded) who was the second most expensive bowler behind Stoinis.

Australian star pace bowler Mitchell Starc (Image: Izhar Khan)

Alongside this unforced change were two changes with opening batter Aaron Finch and all-rounder Tim David sidelined with hamstring injuries from Australia’s win against Ireland on Monday.

“It was a little bit of a surprise, we heard that there were rumours but you don’t know, you never really want to pre-empt or suggest injury certainly to the likes of [Aaron] Finch,” Trott said.

“You don’t know the extent of the injuries, you don’t want to presume so you prepare for any inevitability so we thought Green would open the batting if Finch was injured because he’d done that previously and done pretty well.”

“We knew that Steve Smith was a dangerous player so we planned for him as well.

Australian all-rounder Cameron Green Image: cricket.com.au

When assessing what went wrong for the Afghanistan team, Trott explained that while they are a growing power in the game, they still lack some game awareness at times.

“I think it was a good game to watch for the neutral and I think it showed the skill and the talent of the players that we have got, but then also sometimes the situation awareness we lack in parts.”

One of those bright lights was the performance of star spinner Rashid Khan who calls the Adelaide Oval home when he plays in the Big Bash League in Australia. Despite an injury concern in the last game, Trott reveals that Rashid was never going to miss on Friday night.

Producing an innings with the bat and ball, Rashid had the second lowest economy of 7.25, the wicket of the dangerous Stoinis to break the partnership while contributing the highest score from Afghanistan. His 48 not out was underscored by his trademark aggressive batting including three fours and four sixes.

“We had training here and I said welcome to the home of Rashid Khan, thank you for having us here too Rash,” Trott explained.

“He’s been great in the tournament and that fall that he did have that last game and I remember speaking to him after that and he said there was no way he was missing this game, ‘I’m playing 100 per cent’ [he said].”

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