18/04/2024
Glenn Maxwell. Picture: Cricket Australia

Glenn Maxwell. Picture: Cricket Australia/Twitter

Battling crippling leg cramps and back spasms, Glenn Maxwell pushed through the pain to produce one of the greatest innings ever recorded.

After coming into the game on the back of five straight wins, the anticipation amongst most of the cricketing world was that the Aussies would brush past Afghanistan with ease.

But when Afghanistan posted a solid score of 291 largely on the back on an impressive innings by Ibrahim Zadran (129*), they looked up for the fight.

When Josh Inglis went walking back to the dressing room for a golden duck in the 9th over, the Aussies were on the canvas at 4/49.

Enter Glenn Maxwell.

The flamboyant all-rounder looked shaky early on after coming back from missing Australia’s last game with concussion. He survived a massive LBW shout on his first ball.

After getting through the inital challenges, he set out building his own innings as wickets continued to fall around Maxwell. When Mitch Starc was dismissed the scoreboard read 7/91, with the Aussies still needing 201 runs for victory and in major trouble.

Maxwell was then gifted several lives on 24 and 33, as simple chances went to ground from the Afghans.

The fear for Afghanistan was that Maxwell would make them pay for the missed opportunities, and boy did he.

With captain Pat Cummins keeping his wicket intact, the abled resistance allowed Maxwell to flourish. The man known as the “Big Show” then went on to produce one of the best innings we will ever see.

Fighting debilitating cramps throughout his whole body as well as back spasms for a large part of his innings, Maxwell was unable to move his feet, let alone run.

Despite this he deposited the ball to and over the boundary at will. He finished off with an incredible 201* off just 128 balls, while combining with Cummins for an astonishing 202 run partnership, with the former contributing just 12 runs to the partnership.

Australia’s team physio Nick Jones detailed just how close Maxwell was to retiring after the match.

“It was obvious we were fighting a losing battle. I was going out pretty regularly and I was just trying to keep him calm, trying to regulate everything, manage his heart rate and be as assuring as possible,” Jones said.

“Then he went down like he was a shot, lying down like a dead man on the floor, he said, I’m done here. I can’t keep going. I need to come off and retire.”

“I said to Glenn, ‘look, I think your best bet is to get up off the ground. If you stay on your feet and minimise your running, I think you can stay out here. I explained that to Patty [Cummins] … we need to keep him out there and keep him going.”

Cummins, who made 12 off 68 balls in a crucial stand with Maxwell, was in awe of his teammate’s ability while being under pressure and duress.

“I think that’s the greatest ODI innings I’ve ever seen. It’s probably the greatest ODI innings ever,” Cummins said.

“We’re just chatting about it, all the players and we’ve decided it’s one of those days where you just go, ‘I was there in the stadium the day Glenn Maxwell chased down that total by himself’.

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Post-match the man himself spoke on the pain he was in and just how close he came to retiring, which would’ve ultimately handed Australia defeat.

“I was thinking well that’s the end of running [when the cramps started], it was a strange one because I was cramping in one of my toes, which was going up the front of my shin, and as I set off to get down the other end, I cramped in that calf as well,” Maxwell said.

I was cramping both sides of my lower leg, and as I went oh, I’m cramping, I cramped in my left hamstring at the same time. I’ve got both legs and then I had a back spasm when I hit the ground.”

“It was certainly in our discussions [retiring], we just talked about coming off, trying to get some work into my back. Jonesy (Nick Jones) the physio actually said it would be really hard for you to come back out down the stairs after that, so probably made the job a little bit more simple.”

Maxwell certainly rode his luck early, and at one stage started to walk off despite reviewing an LBW that was given out by the on-field umpire when he was on 27. The ball-tracking then showed that it was bouncing over middle stump, handing Maxwell another reprieve.

“It felt plumb because I was trying to cover my stumps whenever I was in defence, I was so angry with myself, that as soon as it hit it [the pad], it just felt out. Patty straight away said it bounced quite a bit and you were a long way forward and I was like not sure about that, it didn’t feel very good,” he said.

“It was perfect timing because it sort of kicked me into, alright I’ve just got to be a bit more aggressive, I’ve got to be a bit more proactive to make them bowl wider, make them sort of keep it away from the stumps.”

Maxwell saw those anxious moments as a silver-lining to push on and do something special. He immediately started to target selected bowlers and put the pressure back on the opposition, something that every other Australian batter failed to do.

Having already bowled 10 overs in 34-degree heat with around 80% humidity, Maxwell’s body started to cramp in the 30th over.

Then at the start of the 42nd over, with Maxwell on 146 and the Aussies having shrunk the required runs down to just 55, the cramps started to completely take over his body, leaving the chase in serious doubt.

Maxwell hobbled through for a single, immediately going into debilitating full body cramping, while almost being run out in the process. Adam Zampa, who was due to come in next, appeared from down the race ready to bat before being sent back. There was a last-ditch treatment effort from Jones and his fellow physios. Maxwell could see victory, but could his body outlast the treacherous conditions.

After that Maxwell said they came up with strategies that would allow him to stay out there and lead his team to victory.

“We came up with [the idea] let’s just stay at the same end for as long as we can, until you sort of feel like you can at least walk to the other end. If I could get one or two boundaries from one end, it didn’t really matter what happened at the other end because we’d got it to around a run a ball at that stage.

“There was certain planning, it wasn’t just like chaotic swinging but there was a bit of planning to it.

The all-rounder said that the first time he believed they could win was with around 70 runs required.

“I think it got to about 60 or 70 [runs], I thought two more half decent overs around 15, it’s right in the balance here.

“I knew Rashid [Khan] had about 18 balls left that were going to happen in the last 13 overs, so as long as we kept him out of the game, I felt like I could hit boundaries off the others.

“It was about negating him, not letting him have a shot at the rest of the tail, because he’s obviously world class.”

From that point onwards Maxwell could barely move, finding a way to hit some ridiculous shots under the circumstances and lead his team to a famous victory, while also securing a semi-final berth.

When asked if it was his career best innings, Maxwell said that it was certainly special and a memory he would reflect on in the coming days.

“It’s pretty cool, it’s so fresh at the moment, I’m a bit numb to it all. It was great fun, it just felt like it was me and Patty [Cummins] just having fun out there and I’ll probably reflect a bit more over the next few days,” he said.

“It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but yeah, extremely grateful to be able to get back out here and make the semis.”

“I think after the first two games, we were pretty close to written off by most people and to be able to string six wins together at the right time, so to be in the semi’s is a great feeling.”

Cummins also paid homage to what it means for teammate Maxwell to play for his country, describing him as a ‘freak”.

“He was cramping but I think you saw out there how much he loves playing for Australia and (that he’d) do anything to play,” he said.

“He can’t move and still manages to hit a six over third man with the reverse (sweep) – he’s a freak.”

Cricketing greats took to social media in the aftermath of Maxwell’s brilliant knock, speaking glowingly of the 35-year-olds innings’.

Former Indian great Yuvraj Singh posted on X saying “Innings of a lifetime!! Hat’s off. Wasim Akram said “This is easily the best ODI innings I have seen” and England champion Ben Stokes simply said “My goodness Maxi.”

Maxwell will be crucial to Australia’s chances of winning this year’s World Cup as the season progresses, but that innings will be one people will remember for a long time.

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