Match Analysis

Glenn Maxwell stands tallest in adversity to deliver Australia their knock-out blow

Australia confirmed in final four of World Cup after innings of all-time skill and resolve

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Glenn Maxwell was down. He limped through for his 147th run - the 35th single of his innings - and crumpled onto the Wankhede turf, clutching his hamstring, his face clenched in pain. As his muscles cramped and spasmed, Maxwell jerked on the ground, his movements involuntary as his lower body took on a mind of his own. While trying to calm it, Australia's physiotherapist Nick Jones explained to Maxwell that if he walked off, it would probably be difficult to get back on. In the distance, Adam Zampa came down the change-room stairs, ready to take Maxwell's place. And that was when he decided that was not going to happen.
Maxwell was down, but he was not out and he certainly wasn't going to choose to be.
He got up and made his way to the non-striker's end, one hand on his hip to steady his lower back, while Pat Cummins faced the rest of the over, four balls in all. In ordinary circumstances, they would have run off two of them, but these were no ordinary circumstances. Australia had recovered from 91 for 7, in search of their highest successful World Cup chase. Maxwell had already turned his fourth ODI century into a career-best, and now a place in the semi-finals dangled as a reward. But only if Maxwell stayed there and, so for as long as he knew he could hit, but not run, that's what he was going to do.
Next over, Maxwell hit Azmatullah Omarzai to deep mid-wicket and stood. He tried to reach for a ball, missed it and stood. And then he slammed Azmatullah for a one-bounce four and still stood. He was not so much watching as trying to prevent himself from doubling over, as he had done several times before. He knew the runs would come, but only in boundaries.
Over the next six overs, Maxwell hit five fours and five sixes and, as he did so, he reduced batting to one of its most brutal basics: boundary or bust. Said like that, it sounds like a simple approach, but watch the way Maxwell does it and you will see that it's near-impossible for almost anyone else.
With strong wrists, Maxwell is Australia's most destructive player of spin, so Afghanistan's quartet did not scare him. He brought out sweeps, reverse-sweeps and slog-sweeps ... except he didn't, because he couldn't move. Instead, he leant into his strokes from a standing position - even his signature shot: the clear-the-front-leg-and-dispatch-over-the-leg-side, which of course he couldn't clear, because he only had one leg to stand on in the first place.
He could just about swivel, albeit he could not run, which emphasised his ability to create space where other batters cannot, and find gaps in the field by reversing his stance and hitting it over the wicketkeeper's head.
But as incredible as the strokes were, and as heroic an innings as this one was - Cummins called the "probably the greatest ODI innings ever" - the most romantic part of it was born out of desperation, and it certainly was not flawless.
Australia were on 49 for 4 in the ninth over when Maxwell arrived at the crease; he was on 11 when he hit Rashid Khan to short midwicket and took off for a run without waiting to see if Marnus Labuschagne was as keen. Labuschagne dived in but was struggling to beat Rahmat Shah's throw and his bat was still in the air as the stumps were broken. His immediate reaction was annoyance. He could be seen asking Maxwell "what are you doing?" as he held his hands up in disbelief and scowled as he walked back. The mistake was Maxwell's and the making up for it would be his too.
Then, on 27, he was given out lbw to a Noor Ahmed legbreak that hit him below the knee roll, and reviewed even as he began the walk back. He paused, momentarily, as ball-tracking showed the delivery would have bounced over the top of the stumps. Technology spared him but he had to rely on something - instinct perhaps, hope more likely - to ask for its use in the first place. And it worked out. Four balls later, Maxwell was on 33 and swept Noor to Mujeeb at short fine but he spilled a straightforward chance when the ball hit his wrists and popped out. Afghanistan will have to own that error and what it cost them - perhaps a chance in the semi-finals - but Maxwell deserves all the credit for cashing in.
In the end, what he did was peak Australia. No matter how lost the cause was, he found a way. And that too after recovering from a freak golf-buggy-induced concussion that kept him out of action for over a week, as well battling through the kind of debilitating cramp that can temporarily paralyse even the fittest sportspeople. He channelled and churned his inner Andrew Symonds, Michael Hussey and Michael Bevan, and combined them into one super-player that is not just the sum of but a multiple of all those put together. And he produced an innings that will go down as one of the most entertaining and important in ODI history, both for the individual brilliance and what it did for the collective.
Australia are confirmed in the final four, and as their formidable tournament record will confirm, that tends to be the starting point for their World Cup ambitions. With five titles banked already, they've lost just twice in the knock-outs since losing the 1996 final - to India in 2011 and to England in 2019 - and just when it seemed a vulnerability was creeping back into this campaign after two early losses, Maxwell was on hand to prevent it. As for Maxwell, there's a poetry to the way the numbers worked out.
After 40 overs, Australia needed 60 runs off 60 balls and Maxwell was 58 away from 200. In that over, he realised he would not be able to run anymore and so the only way for Australia to get those runs was for him to score them in boundaries. He and Cummins agreed that their strategy would be to bat from one end each - Cummins saw off a scoreless over from Noor in the cause - and Maxwell would stand and swing.
He sent Omarzai soaring over deep third and then deep midwicket off successive balls, smacked Naveen-ul-Haq over long-on and even hobbled three singles, much to Afghanistan's surprise. Maxwell was wobbling dehydrated but it was Afghanistan who were dazed. And then came the coup de grace. The 47th over. Maxwell inside-edged the first delivery as he tried to smash it over midwicket and then connected the second and the third. He changed tack to hit the fourth through the covers and with Australia needing five to win, heaved the fifth ball away for the six that brought both the victory and his 200.
And then he stood. The pain in his legs evaporated. He stood. Arms aloft, smile wide. He stood. The greatest of innings played, the match won, the semi-final spot secured, Maxwell stood and he stood tall.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket