Australia have pulled off one of the great Cricket World Cup comebacks and avoided an upset to Afghanistan after Glenn Maxwell single-handedly led them to a three-wicket win.
Maxwell smashed 201 from 128 balls in stunning style after suffering cramp midway through his innings. Australia were struggling at 91 for seven but Maxwell brought them right back into contention before setting up the win by putting on 202 for the eighth wicket with Pat Cummins adding just 12 off 68 balls at the other end.
Maxwell could barely walk let alone run to the other end and ended the innings with 31 boundaries going 6, 6, 4 and 6 to bring up his double century and the winning runs with Australia reaching 293 for seven with 19 balls remaining.
Afghanistan were denied the chance to move to 10 points which would have seen them leapfrog New Zealand into fourth on the table. They still have a chance to make the semifinals for the first time but will need to beat South Africa, along with both Pakistan (v England) and the Black Caps (v Sri Lanka) losing their final matches.
After losing their opening two games to India and South Africa, Australia have won six straight to book a semifinal spot for the eighth time in the last nine World Cup tournaments.
Maxwell became the first Australian male to score an ODI double ton and the partnership smashed the previous ODI record for the eighth wicket which stood at 138.
“I haven’t really done a whole lot of high-intensity exercise in the heat. It certainly got ahold of me today,” Maxwell said. “Lucky enough, I was able to stick it out to the end.”
Afghanistan opener Ibrahim Zadran was overshadowed after scoring his first World Cup hundred to help his team put up a challenging target of 291-5.
Naveen ul Haq and Azmatullah Omarzai shared four wickets as the Australian innings floundered initially only for Maxwell’s unimaginable effort to take it home.
“It would have been nice if it was chanceless,” said Maxwell, who was dropped on 33. “I led a charmed life out there. I was very lucky. I suppose just made the most of that.”
How Australia came back to win
Chasing 292, Australia made a poor start as Travis Head was out for a two-ball duck, caught behind off Naveen ul Haq.
David Warner and Mitchell Marsh added 39 runs for the second wicket. Naveen got the breakthrough, trapping the latter lbw for 24 off 11 balls in the sixth over.
Three overs later, the Australian collapse was on — Omarzai bowled Warner for 18 and then dismissed Josh Inglis for a golden duck.
Maxwell edged the hat trick ball from Omazai, but it bounced before the keeper. Australia was 49-4 and in deep trouble.
They became 69-5 in the 15th over as Marnus Labuschagne was run out for 14. Rashid Khan bamboozled Marcus Stoinish with his spin, trapping him lbw for six.
Khan also sent back Mitchell Starc (3), caught behind, as keeper Ikram Alikhil took a superb frontal diving catch. Replays showed that Starc hadn’t edged it, but he ran out of time for a DRS review.
At 91-7 in 18.3 overs, it looked like game over for Australia before Maxwell took over.
He enjoyed two lives in the 22nd over. First, he was deemed out lbw off Noor Ahmed, only to review it and survive through DRS. Then, three balls later, Mujeeb ur Rahman dropped him at short fine leg.
Maxwell was on 27 and 33 at that time, but never looked back. He scored 50 off 51 balls, with seven fours before powering on thereafter.
His next 50 came off 25 balls, as he hit three sixes and three more fours. It was his second hundred of the tournament, coming off 76 balls, following his 40-ball century against the Netherlands — the fastest in World Cup history.
Maxwell reached 150 off 104 balls, smacking another seven fours and two sixes. By that time, he started cramping up badly and couldn’t muster running between the wickets.
It only led to further power-hitting — Maxwell smashed five sixes and four fours off the next 24 balls faced as he raced to a double hundred and single-handedly took Australia across the finish line.
This was Australia’s highest individual score in a World Cup, going past Shane Watson’s 185 not out against Bangladesh in 2011. Maxwell’s previous best in ODIs was 108.
Earlier, Zadran made history for Afghanistan, recording their first World Cup hundred. Their previous highest individual score in the tournament history was Samiullah Shinwari’s 96 in 2015, when it had registered a first World Cup win over Scotland in Dunedin.
The openers had provided a sedate start. The hard-hitting Rahmanullah Gurbaz was not able to get away quickly and he scored 21 off 25 balls.
Zadran and Gurbaz put on 38 runs, before the latter was out caught at backward square off Josh Hazlewood, who finished with 2-39 in nine overs.
He then added 83 off 100 balls for the second wicket Rahmat Shah, who contributed 30 runs.
Maxwell (1-55) had Shah caught at long off even as Afghanistan’s run-rate didn’t go above five an over. Zadran meanwhile reached 50 off 62 balls, with six fours.
He continued anchoring the innings, adding another 52 runs with skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi (26).
Mitchell Starc recovered to bowl Shahidi. Wrist spinner Adam Zampa picked his 20th wicket in the tournament, with Omarzai caught for 22.
Zadran added vital runs as he held one end together — 37 with Omarzai and then another 23 with Mohammed Nabi (12).
Even then, Afghanistan was 233-5 in the 46th over and in danger of finishing with an under-par score.
Rashid Khan changed that as he smacked three sixes and two fours. Zadran too hit two sixes after reaching his landmark century off 131 balls.
He scored 29 runs off the last 12 balls faced, and added 58 off 28 balls with Khan, as their unbroken sixth wicket partnership knocked out Australia’s wind.
Afghanistan had won the toss and opted to bat.
- With AP