Varun Shetty in Bengaluru (February 26, 2019)


Brave, cheeky, and not wearing a helmet for the most part: you could pop Glenn Maxwell on to a motorcycle outside the Chinnaswamy Stadium, and he’d get farther than most in a city where you don’t get very far very quick.

This is where the metaphor dies. Unlike outside, chasing targets is not often a tedious task at the Chinnaswamy. Twenty-two of the 57 games played at the ground have involved successful chases of greater than 170. Eight of those didn’t even get to the end of the 19th over.

From that lens, Maxwell had a bit going for him. But 191 is a difficult chase anywhere. And there were challenges beyond those posed by Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal.

“It is a tough place to come, the crowd’s calling out Kohli and Dhoni non-stop throughout the whole time, even when they’re not batting,” he said.

Maxwell silenced that crowd a few times on Wednesday, often with hits into their seats. But through it all, the locals believed, because there was still Bumrah. And when he came back on in the 17th, he had 11 runs per over to defend, more than he normally needs.

Right around then was where Maxwell sealed the game.

A big part of why Bumrah ends up with sensational economy rates in most games is that teams prioritise not taking risks against him, choosing to keep wickets in hand as they take on the other bowlers. Maxwell had hit two sixes off Chahal’s previous over, though, and wasn’t close to displaying such caution.

He made room off the second ball, and capitalised on a rare missed yorker – a slap through the covers. It had to be a yorker next, and it was almost a pre-emptive watchful poke to long-on next ball.

Then strike was regained for the fifth delivery. Fine leg was back, so this wouldn’t necessarily be a yorker. It was worth getting deep in the crease. And that’s where he set up for Bumrah’s slower ball, dropped at a length and coming into him. The depth he created allowed him a monumental heave that took the ball past square leg, thwarting a possible plan to have him hole out to long-on. After all that, he sliced a yorker for one. Twelve off the over.

“I was always trying to attack him. I think we needed 43 or 44 off the last [four] overs and he came back on. I suppose it was a key over,” Maxwell said. “If that only went for four or five, suddenly you need 13 an over. And it only takes six good yorkers from him to push that up to 18-19. That can be quite difficult to get in the last two overs, or the two other overs [at the other end]. So I was just hoping he missed a couple of times and wanted to pounce on that.

“I was able to get him for two boundaries in that over, and keep the run rate in check, and I was able to target Siddarth [Kaul] next over and then we only needed 14 off 12 balls.”

Kaul is a reputed death-overs bowler in his own right at the IPL, so there was still some work to do. Maxwell was beaten by the first ball, a slower one that hit him in the back as he looked to pull. The next ball, he calculated Kaul out of the contest. Accounting for both his go-to variations at the death – the knuckle ball and the yorker – Maxwell took a stroll down the pitch and carted him through the line and over his head.

Kaul did pull things back, and with one ball to go in the 18th, Australia still needed 22. This had to be a boundary ball, lest Bumrah produce another 19th over that left them about 15 to get.

He was down the pitch again, walking at a ball that eventually rose over his waist before he clubbed it over the midwicket boundary. The spectators had been truly silenced. Some began leaving for the exits. Most couldn’t get out before he brought up a third T20I hundred the next over, and were the reluctant participants of a standing ovation. It had been two overs of creative genius from Maxwell.

Last time an ODI World Cup was approaching, Maxwell was in poor form and had made the infamous step-out-and-leave to be bowled, before sneaking in and having a stellar tournament.

Four years later, he now seems undroppable, able to summon composure just as he can summon the madness. A tasty prospect when you consider he hit all nine of Australia’s sixes, including an audacious reverse-swat against long-time nemesis Chahal.

“I was actually quite calm through most of it,” he said. “It helped, I suppose, having a bit of familiarity with D’Arcy [Short]. We had a good partnership last game and we both understand each other’s games pretty well.

“We had an idea to try and get it to 100 off the last eight. We were able to just bat well enough, hit good cricket shots, and target certain bowlers and get it down to I think it was a 104 off ten. Probably exceeded our expectations a little bit there. From there we were able to just control the run rate.”

Life’s not exactly been gentle off the field for Maxwell over the last year. A regular spot in the national teams has been elusive thanks to mixed messages, “careless whispers” , and a perceived lack of diligent training.

But on Wednesday, as on Sunday during the first T20I, Maxwell looked in full control on the field, and a contented man off it. A complete, honest embodiment of that go-to post-match platitude of controlling the controllables.

At the moment, Maxwell is in control. Of his technique, of his training, of where he wants the ball to go, and of his long-term plans.

It’s against the grain for the enigma we’ve known, but we might finally have the best Maxwell we’ve ever seen.

Source: Two overs of genius from Glenn Maxwell | ESPNcricinfo.com

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