41st over: Australia 237-7 (Maxwell 147, Cummins 11) Target 292. Cummins has no choice but to play out the four balls – Maxwell can’t run! What DRAMA at Mumbai. But there’s so long to go – 55 runs needed, and they have to be all 4s and 6s.
Maxwell hits the deck – cramp! He’s used the first ball well, another standing-still flick, this time off Noor Ahmad, into a gap for a boundary. Down the ground for an easy single next but he’s hops down to the danger end and immediately goes to ground. This really is something else. Adam Zampa is coming down the stairs – he’s not going to retire hurt, is he? Might he have to? That’s the second time he’s walked down the stairs tonight, believing he was in when Maxwell was saved by a persuasive lbw shout – it feels a long time ago now. He’s going to continue!
40th over: Australia 232-7 (Maxwell 142, Cummins 11) Target 292. Blimey! Maxwell can’t move in the crease but it does not matter. Facing Naveen, standing dead still, he flicks him over backward square for four then hammers a straight drive for four more. No footwork with either, all eyes and wrists. Some of the most freakish cricket I’ve ever seen. And the strike gets back to Cummins, who does his bit from the final two balls of the over, the 55th and 56th of his innings, to get the strike back to The Big Show. A partnership of 141 from 129 as we enter the final ten overs with an even run a ball needed. Cummins the perfect ally – his 11 in 56 vital to it all.
39th over: Australia 223-7 (Maxwell 133, Cummins 11) Target 292. First ball SIX! Of course! It’s been the theme of the innings, and with Maxwell’s issue (cramp?) causing him so much grief, it makes sense that he’s moved from fours to sixes. But with that sorted right away, they can play Rashid with the respect he otherwise deserves. Seven from the over and the strike is back with Maxi. 69 from 66 needed.
38th over: Australia 216-7 (Maxwell 126, Cummins 11) Target 292. Maxi is battling now, every run is hurting – they’re being slowed down by Naveen’s re-emergence – just two taken here, a couple of yorkers dug out in the process. Once again the Australian support staff are out there, looks to be drinking some of that pickle juice according to the TV comms. Did I hear Haydos right saying once Maxwell is through this and they’re qualified then tomorrow chill out at ‘Smoko’? I hope that’s right – and even if I heard it incorrectly (basically = morning tea), here’s a banging tune.
37th over: Australia 214-7 (Maxwell 125, Cummins 11) Target 292. Maxwell is clearly in strife now with that hamstring or lower back – hard to tell exactly what, but he’s walking his singles. But as they come together at the end of Rashid’s 8th over, where three runs were taken, he’s still smiling. They bring a drink out for him.
“I’m not necessarily rooting for Australia to pull off the heroic comeback,” writes Beau Dare. “But wouldn’t it be nice if the outcome was in doubt in the 45th over for a change?” Whisper it… this could evolve into one of the best finishes ever.
36th over: Australia 211-7 (Maxwell 123, Cummins 10) Target 292. WinViz is still big on Afghanistan at 82 per cent but that can’t factor in what Maxwell and Cummins are doing… and you better believe it’s going to continue here against Nabi! Creative, inside the line, over his shoulder four. Next? HUGE over deep midwicket on a lofted sweep – into the crowd with ease! How many times has he hit consecutive boundaries here? Loads. Calculated hitting, applying as much pressure as he possibly can to free up any required run rate pressure. 11 off once again. Cummins’ 10 is from 42 balls, Maxwell’s 123 from 89. They’re put on 121 in 106 – stunning stuff.
35th over: Australia 200-7 (Maxwell 112, Cummins 10) Target 292. Naveen, who bowled such a splendid spell a couple of hours ago, returns to the attack to try and get this back on track for Afghanistan. Five singles, not all pretty, but a change in rhythm, which has to be good for the fielding team at this stage. Even just Maxwell having to put a helmet on for the first time since the power play – shake it up now.
“Afternoon Adam.”Kim Thonger! “I feel obliged to point out that this brave and skilful Afghanistan team hit peak form precisely at the moment my Afghanistan bucket hat arrived courtesy of Amazon. Correlation or causation? I know what I think. Yours overexcitedly. An ex-England supporter.”
Kim has sent me a picture with this email (I have no idea how to pop it in) with the hat on and a pair of sunglasses, sat in front of a packed bookcase. Doing it well.
A delay here with Maxwell stretching out a hamstring. He’s taken a tablet. “There is a different universe where Glenn M has been batting at 5/6 in the Australian test side for the last decade,” says Brenden Fawkes. “I wish I was in that one.” Oh, me too.
34th over: Australia 195-7 (Maxwell 109, Cummins 8) Target 292. Afghanistan turn to Nabi at this late stage – another bowler who Maxwell knows as well as anyone from years and years of IPL and BBL. And sure enough, first ball of the over he’s after him, deploying the cut to perfection once again, this time into a gap for four. Ohhh it’s back-to-back boundaries with a Maxwellian special, giving the stumps to the bowler and forcing with immaculate timing into a gap from the off-stump line to the cover rope – that’s a stunning shot, and the 100 stand… they’re put on 103 with Cummins making 8 of those! Maxwell gives the captain one ball to get through and get through it he does. He’s faced 38 balls now and played a blinder at No9.
33rd over: Australia 186-7 (Maxwell 100, Cummins 8) Target 292. Maxwell cuts hard again, right out the middle of the bat, a misfield allows them to run back. He’s 99. Make that 100! Another cut to deep point to raise a 76-ball ton. “An incredible performance,” says Mike Atherton. From where they were to where they are – the job is a long way from done but this is a reminder that he’s made of special stuff.
32nd over: Australia 183-7 (Maxwell 97, Cummins 8) Target 292. Maxi is beaten by Mujeeb when playing defensively early in the over so he goes the other way to smash a straight four and a HUGE SIX over long on – that’s his biggest of the night! Maxwellball. He’s 96 from 73 with a couple of balls to go. A carve to deep point is nearly worth two but they think better of it with Cummins able to knock this on the head and give the strike back, and that’s precisely what he does. 11 off the over.
31st over: Australia 172-7 (Maxwell 86, Cummins 8) Target 292. Needing just on a run-a-ball from here, Shane Watson makes the point that they can game this to let him do almost all of the scoring – Cummins just needs to keep playing smart cricket. It’s highly improbable the asking rate will be even a factor if Maxwell is there for another ten overs. Noor is bowling nicely here, so they play this cool – three off it. As Athers says on TV, this might be the time to go back to pace to shake things up a bit.
“I hope it is not slipping away,” laments Krishnamorthy v. “An Australian win after 7 down on a two-digit score would be hard to digest. The permutations (Someone explained to me that Pakistan can still qualify) are head-spinning for me to gauge. I just want the Afghans to proceed.” T
There’ll be a lot of these feelings. Nobody apart from Australia want Maxi to do this.
30th over: Australia 169-7 (Maxwell 84, Cummins 7) Target 292. Ooooh, what a ball from Mujeeb, a beautiful delivery breaking from leg to off, but instead of running into Maxwell’s off stump it clips the outside edge and runs away through first slip to the rope – yet another over that begins with a boundary for him. Three times in the over he’s galloping back for two after placing and weighting his groundstrokes into the legside – this is all part of the process of breaking down a fielding team. This pair have put on 78 with Cummins only needing to get seven of those. 11 off the over.
Over the PA, the ground announcer is giving it the ‘when I say GLENN, you say MAXWELL’ – he’s always been more popular in India than anywhere else…
29th over: Australia 158-7 (Maxwell 73, Cummins 7) Target 292. Oh dear… I can’t stop thinking about that Mujeeb drop as Maxi plonks Noor over midwicket for SIX (again, the first ball of the over) then does it again over long on – he hasn’t middled either but doesn’t need to with his bat speed and rubber wrists. The required rate has never hit 7 an over, down to 6.4 now with 21 overs left. Put it this way – if Maxwell is still batting at over 45, the game is probably finished. If that.
28th over: Australia 145-7 (Maxwell 60, Cummins 7) Target 292. Afghanistan have so many options, including five Mujeeb overs, which is unusual at this stage – he’s often done by over 30 or thereabouts. But Maxwell is determined to continue putting pressure on by hitting the first ball of the over to the boundary and does again here for the fifth time (by my count) through extra cover. With that heavy lifting complete, that there’s only one more run taken doesn’t matter too much.
“I’m torn on this,” says Brenden Fawkes in relation to my comment about automating bowled dismissals in games where zing balls and technology. “I’ve seen in grade cricket a batsman have such soft hands that when the ball did roll back (after some outrageous un-luck) and graze the stumps, the bails stayed on. Did the batsman do enough to ‘protect his wicket’ with the softest of hands, or do we take that away because of an usual deviation off of his foot & pitch to bring it back onto the wicket? Although, the bails over the last few years have proven to be too heavy – there has to be a better way, if they want to have lights in them, to bring them back to a more ‘traditional’ weight.”
Fair. My point, in general terms (too much going on in the game to go into depth!) is that the bails are there to begin with to help us identify when the stumps have been hit. They should remain, of course, as part of the stumps – the game has evolved to make the stumps marginally bigger because of their presence. But I reckon the days of needing bails to come off in the zing era (see examples here) are beyond us.
27th over: Australia 140-7 (Maxwell 55, Cummins 7) Target 292. They’re got a bit of a method going here when Cummins is on strike, trying to just absorb as much pressure as possible – he’s not bad at that. But after Rashid spits a googly up at his thigh pad, the ball to finish turns past the edge with the Australian captain looking to drive him through cover – it beats the blade and the ‘keeper, running away for four byes. So, that’s drinks with Australia still in need of 152 runs at 6.6 an over.
26th over: Australia 131-7 (Maxwell 51, Cummins 6) Target 292. To the milestone with a crashing loft mid-off, a Maxwell trademark, and another boundary from the first ball of an over. Only one further single from there – Noor nearly sneaks past the Aussie captain with a sharply-spun ball to finish, but he gets his bat down.
“Hi Adam,” Good afternoon, Colum Fordham. “Watching Afghanistan thrive on the world stage is a breath of fresh air for cricket. Their exciting raw talent, so evident in other tournaments, is coming to the fore. Their bowlers are a wonder to watch, especially Mujeeb, Azmat and Rashid Khan. But I have a question. Are Australia England in disguise?”
In fairness, that would require them to lose six on the trot…
25th over: Australia 126-7 (Maxwell 46, Cummins 6) Target 292. Cummins isn’t going to do anything outlandish against Rashid, happy patting him around defensively. 166 from 25 overs – at some level, Maxwell will love this challenge.
“Hi Adam.” Hello, David Hopkins. “I don’t think anyone wants to see the Afghanistan story end in the group stages. Is it too much to ask for Sri Lanka and England to rouse themselves to some sort of competitiveness and give them a hand in the last round of matches?”
If they win this, I reckon they’ll knock South Africa off too and make sure of it.
24th over: Australia 125-7 (Maxwell 45, Cummins 6) Target 292. Maxwell goes hard at the first all of the over for the third time in a row, getting it past the man inside the ring at midwicket out to the rope. Aaron Finch makes a good point: Maxwell in lovely shape heading into the elimination stage, provided they make it (!), is daunting. Especially considering he missed England with a concussion.
“I’m conflicted about this match,” says Alistair Connor. “Afghanistan have been the revelation of the Cup, and anyway, as a New Zealander, my second team is always whoever Australia is playing today. So I fervently hope the Afghans win. BUT. If Sri Lanka happen to actually turn up on Thursday, for the first time of the tournament, they could go to the semis at the expense of the Black Caps!”
If Afghanistan win this, and surely they do, we have a very fun week ahead of us.
23rd over: Australia 118-7 (Maxwell 39, Cummins 5) Target 292. It feels like we’ve been going for several hours but Australia are only 23 overs into this shambolic chase. The asking rate, however, is only 6.4 and Maxwell will be aware of that – he clobbers Rashid over cover in a way he only can, nearly going for six. If anyone can…
22nd over: Australia 113-7 (Maxwell 34, Cummins 5) Target 292. Oh no! Another DROP – a real shocker around the corner at short fine by Mujeeb after Maxwell helped it to him with a miscued sweep. In the middle of all that, the lbw let-off and the bad drop, Australia added 12 with a Maxwell reverse sweep and five wides.
NOT OUT! Noor has done everything right from over the wicket, hitting Maxwell on the knee roll. It prompts Maxwell to start walking off believing he was done – Zampa was heading to the ground. But ball tracking has it going over! Smiles all round.
IS MAXWELL LBW TO NOOR? Up we go! Maxwell reviews; given out on field.
21st over: Australia 101-7 (Maxwell 27, Cummins 5) Target 292. Confusion! Dropped catch! Maxwell should be caught by Shahidi at mid-off but he momentarily believes Rashid, the bowler, is running back with the flight – the captain doesn’t get to the contest. Rashid is all over him here, beating both edges and turning it square.
20th over: Australia 98-7 (Maxwell 24, Cummins 5) Target 292. I wonder what Pat Cummins has said to Maxwell when walking out here? He’s a clever cookie, Captain Pat – he will know the bigger Net Run Rate picture that I referred to before and he will appreciate the probability of a win from here is so small. Three off Noor Ahmad, another quality spinner from this Afghanistan production line, and only 18.
I’m mindful through this that the wider Afghanistan story is an extremely complicated one. Remember, Australia boycotted a series against them only ten months ago; the very fact they are playing this game after doing this is noteworthy. On this topic, I’m grateful, as always, for Robert Wilson’s thoughts.
“Hey,ça va, mon grand? This World Cup has now definitively done its job. I’m profusely made up for Zadran picking off a ton against the Ozzers. Has there ever been a jauntier story than the Afghanistan one, given the circumstances? And given the background of boycotting talk about this team.
It’s a vexing question but I had the great good fortune to spend some time with Afghan refugees in Paris as the Americans pulled out of Kabul (the French were noble if clumsy at the time, letting as many people in as possible, but then giving them care packages consisting exclusively and mystifyingly of couscous). They were a spectacular bunch, to a man already planning their complicated return to their country (the women were notably less keen). One of them, a famous painter, known for painting extravagantly defiant political street murals had this to say about boycotts, sporting, cultural or otherwise.
‘Are you guys mental? The world should do the exact opposite. Invite every voice to speak, everywhere, all the time. Most kids in Afghanistan have smartphones. They know what’s what. And they need to see other Afghans showing the world who we are or even better what we are. Nothing is more revolutionary than that.’
The quote is kosher. He permanently changed my mind about this (in Afghanistan’s case at least). Not least because anyone who airily and fluently calls you ‘mental’ in their fourth or fifth language deserves a hearing.”
19th over: Australia 95-7 (Maxwell 22, Cummins 4) Target 292. My oh my… STARC DIDN’T HIT IT! He was confused at the time and TV shows why: that ball hit the off-stump but not his bat! He walked off without reviewing so there’s nothing they can do about it now. I started this stint with a rant about specialist third umps but I’ll spare you another about the need for any ball hitting the stumps (where TV/zing balls are in use) to be given out because, in a roundabout way, it’s the right outcome.
It doesn’t matter, he gets Starc next ball! What a catch from Ikram, the deflection from the googly hitting his glove and ballooning in front of the stumps, but he followed it instinctively before diving to drag it back in with one mitt! Full commitment to the cause. What an extraordinary event we are seeing here.
NOT OUT! It was ground before boot on the drive. So much pressure now.
HAS RASHID KHAN TAKEN A FREAK CATCH OFF STARC IN HIS FOLLOW-THROUGH? Bump ball or smashed into his foot? We’re about to find out.
18th over: Australia 91-6 (Maxwell 22, Starc 3) Target 292. A great time to bring on teenage sensation Noor Ahmad, who was so good against Pakistan a couple of weeks ago – the win that got Afghanistan on this mighty roll. Two singles to begin here, the left-arm wristspinner played watchfully by both veteran Australians.
17th over: Australia 89-6 (Maxwell 21, Starc 2) Target 292. “You can just hear through the stump mics how up Afghanistan are for this,” says Aaron Finch when coming onto commentary. Starc is off the mark with a couple out to point.
Three reds! It looks a dreadful shot on replay – a panicked shot so described by Mike Atherton on telly. Stoinis departs; Australia are just about finished. Wow.
HAS RASHID TRAPPED STOINIS LBW WHEN REVERSING? He’s given out on the field – it looks like he’s in a lot of trouble. But he has to send it upstairs. Oh dear…
16th over: Australia 81-5 (Maxwell 20, Stoinis 1) Target 292. As I said before, Maxwell knows Mujeeb well, and it shows with the confidence he plays him over midwicket then through extra cover – two boundaries, in a row, both hammered. These two have it in them to put a lot of pressure back on Afghanistan very quickly.
15th over: Australia 73-5 (Maxwell 12, Stoinis 1) Target 292. A big wrong’un from Rashid to finish his first, which Stoinis knows very little about – a great start from the little champion. Maxwell and Stoinis aren’t in the team for that’s the job now. Also, a note for Australia’s Net Run Rate. The only way they can miss the semi-finals is if they lose both games and have their NRR destroyed in the process.
NOT OUT! Ever so close to that outside edge but not quite. On to ball-tracking, as the ball did hit the back pad, which is the noise they were excited about… and it’s umpire’s call on contact with the stumps! So close x 2 – Stoinis survives, juuuust.
HAS RASHID KHAN GOT STOINIS CAUGHT BEHIND? Upstairs we go! They’re burned one review on the hat-trick ball earlier so this is not without risk but they’ve backed in their No1 bowler, halfway through his first over. This is a huge moment.
It is close but the bat has been slid in on the roof side and thus, the toe of the blade is still in the air when the ball hits the stumps! Hooley dooley, they’re in a world of pain now the Aussies. Maxwell called him through for one to midwicket but a brief moment of indecision has been his undoing with Rahmat spot on with the throw. As Ponting says on TV, the call from Maxwell was immediate, so that’s on Marnus.
HAS RAHMAT RUN LABUSCHAGNE OUT? This will be close!
14th over: Australia 69-4 (Labuschagne 14, Maxwell 11) Target 292. Mujeeb to Marnus. For different reasons, two of the more interesting players in the game. Nothing given from either competitor here; a maiden complete. Labuschagne has pulled one of these wins off before, against South Africa a couple of months ago when he was drafted into the squad. But on that occasion, they were hunting 230-odd not 292 and the required rate is up at 6.2, which’ll take some getting.
13th over: Australia 69-4 (Labuschagne 14, Maxwell 11) Target 292. Maxwell clips Azmat away for four; his first boundary. Eight off it. Fascinating to see how the Victorian plays this. How long until he pushes back? He doesn’t have to, and doesn’t need to either – he has the game to drag it out deep if necessary.
“Hello Adam.” Good afternoon, Krishnamorthy V. “Imagine this scenario. Afghanistan qualifies in the top 4, knocks out India in the semis, and wins the WC after humiliating SA in the final. Will be a bigger upset than the 1983 Kapil’s devils.”
It would be, by some way, the biggest surprise in the history of international cricket. But’s filtering it through the lens of where they’ve been and perhaps where they were coming into this tournament. From here, that’s just four wins away. Dream.
“Hi Adam.” Young Abhijato! Lovely to hear from you. “I hope you’re doing well — it’s been a while! My semester has chugged along and entered its last month of classes too soon, just like this World Cup and its last week of group stage matches. I know people have said this before, but it bears repeating: the stolidity of the Afghans has been remarkable throughout this encounter. In this match as well as their other four victories in the tournament, at no stage have they looked too rushed. The dominance and calm in all their victories so far — potentially including this one — speaks to their meteoric rise. It was more visible in attitude than in results for the past couple of years, but now, they’re bearing the fruit of their success at the biggest stage. Hoping to see them in the semis.”
The best compliment you can pay Afghanistan is that, with six games to go in this long group stage, they still in control of their own destiny. Get this done against Australia, beat South Africa and make the final four. What a story that would be.
12th over: Australia 61-4 (Labuschagne 13, Maxwell 4) Target 292. Mujeeb replaces Naveen, who was brilliant. With the ball still hard enough, he’s going to remain a handful. But as it was with Warner earlier, in Maxwell he has an adversary who knows his weapons well. Four singles and a quiet over before drinks suits Australia.
11th over: Australia 57-4 (Labuschagne 11, Maxwell 2) Target 292. Atherton, Ponting and Watson take over on comms – lovely, soothing, normal. Can Australia tap into that and settle things down in the middle? A pulled boundary off danger man Azmat will help with that, Labuschagne into position early. He edged a ball earlier in the over, which didn’t quite make it to the cordon, but with soft hands that’s fine.
10th over: Australia 52-4 (Labuschagne 6, Maxwell 2) Target 292. Alright, Naveen bowling his fifth off the top, which stands to reason given the way they have the ball has talked in this power play. After three probing dots to Labuschagne, who needs to bat for 30 overs and knows how to do just that, they call for the hammer to smash the surface down where the bowler is landing. Oooh, after the delay some more needle, this time because Rashid was moving sideways when the bowler was running in – he gets told off. A single to third man is their lot. Power play complete.
Meanwhile, it’s getting a bit ugly in the England camp, reports Ali Martin from Pune.
9th over: Australia 51-4 (Labuschagne 5, Maxwell 2) Target 292. Right, do we dare breathe? Maxwell has a very different role to play tonight and is off the mark with a couple out through mid-off, with that angled bat shot he plays so well. What an over. What an hour. Azmatullah is a superstar in the making, believe me on this.
HE’S HIT IT! NOT OUT! Had it been pad, as they/we thought, it was gone. And how did it not make it through to the gloves of the wicketkeeper? SCENES.