Josh Inglis had his back turned when cameras panned to Australia’s ashen-faced dressing room. You couldn’t see, but it was obvious that he was fuming after being dismissed first ball as five-time champions Australia were headed for a humiliating defeat against Afghanistan.
Next to Inglis sat David Warner, who still sported a grim expression after being clean bowled on the previous delivery. Australia were almost down and out as they crumbled to 91 for 7 chasing 292 against a strong Afghanistan attack that could smell an upset that would leave both teams fighting for a semi-final berth.
But about three hours later, as most of his compatriots in Australia slept in the early morning, Glenn Maxwell played the most surreal innings that upended the entire match.
Through the most astonishing hitting, for much of the innings he was restricted to stand and delivering with his mobility compromised due to back and cramping issues, Maxwell left Afghanistan stunned to finish unbeaten on 201 from just 128 balls and powered Australia to an implausible three-wicket victory.
It left everyone watching, including those bleary-eyed from Down Under when they realized they weren’t dreaming, gushing that this was the greatest ODI innings of all time.
Of course, there is recency bias and a deep dive has not been properly conducted yet, but Maxwell’s innings probably overtakes Kapil Dev’s 175 against Zimbabwe at the 1983 World Cup and Viv Richards’ 189 not out against England in 1984 – a mark that stood for 13 years.
They were always considered the go-to whenever discussions centered on best ever innings although the 50-over format has changed so radically over the decades that comparisons are increasingly difficult.
Still it’s hard to top Maxwell considering the stakes with a defeat leaving Australia in a bunfight to reach the semis. Maxwell survived a perilously close lbw on review – he even started walking off the ground only for the technology to surprisingly deem that the ball was going over the stumps – and was given a reprieve on 33 when Mujeeb Ur Rahman dropped a sitter at short fine.
But after that he capitalized on an increasingly flustered Afghanistan, who crumbled in the face of the one-man wrecking ball in the form of Maxwell. He had important support from captain Pat Cummins, who essentially was in Test cricket mode and just holding up an end leaving Maxwell to tee off at the other.
Barely able to move, at one point he appeared set to retire hurt, Maxwell defied his body with nonstop extraordinary inventive shots, including somehow a reverse hit over short third for six.
If Australia go on to win this tournament, Mujeeb’s dropped catch could echo Herschelle Gibbs’ infamous fumble to reprieve Steve Waugh as Australia eventually claimed the 1999 World Cup against the odds.
Similarly, Maxwell’s heroics might just ignite Australia’s patchy World Cup campaign. Even though they’ve won six straight games after being in a tale of woe with two losses to start the tournament, Australia haven’t really clicked yet. They mustered wins mostly through individual brilliance, but Maxwell might have just fuelled their confidence.
A confident Australia, who have long dominated this tournament, will spook opponents – even impregnable India – because history suggests that once they get on a roll then it’s almost impossible to stop them.
If Pat Cummins ends up lifting the trophy on November 19 then Australia will look back at the innings of a lifetime from Glenn Maxwell that changed the course of history.