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2% chance, 98% faith, Maxwell orchestrates the greatest La Remontada

Last updated on 07 Nov 2023 | 08:44 PM
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2% chance, 98% faith, Maxwell orchestrates the greatest La Remontada

One-legged Glenn Maxwell’s 201 is p̶e̶r̶h̶a̶p̶s̶ the greatest knock that the sport has seen

“1% chance, 99% faith,” Neymar Jr famously said when FC Barcelona had to do the unthinkable against PSG. 

Barcelona were 4-0 down after the first leg against Paris St Germain in the 2017 Champions League, Round of 16. They had to score five at home to progress to the next stage. But when Edinson Cavani scored a goal in the 62nd minute at Camp Nou, the scoreline on the night read 3-1. 

With the aggregate scoreline reading 5-3 in PSG’s favour, with three minutes of normal time left, they were sure of making it to the quarter-finals. 

Barcelona needed three goals in the last seven minutes - never had a team done something remotely close.

Two goals and six minutes later, the scores were somehow level. With less than 30 seconds left for the final whistle, with Barcelona needing another goal to progress, Marc Andre ter Stegen crossed it straight into the path of Sergi Roberto. 

What followed broke the internet, the greatest photo ever taken in the UEFA Champions League history. Lionel Messi stood there, soaking in the energy from the 1,00,000 people at Camp Nou - cold, bloody cold. 

Like Barcelona all those years ago, Australia had their back against the walls, needing the unthinkable, chasing 292.

When Azmatullah Omarzai wheeled away celebrating Josh Inglis’ wicket, Afghanistan were all over Australia like a rash. Omarzai had struck twice in two deliveries and was on a hat-trick.

The celebration had already kick-started back in Kabul; the teary-eyed supporters could not believe what was happening. Afghanistan supporters were on their knees as they were witnessing history. 

Afghan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi put another fielder in the slips, making it a crowd. It was pressure of the highest order. Glenn Maxwell was in the firing line. Never before today in this year’s World Cup had Maxwell walked out to bat in the powerplay. The last time he did so was in the World Cup, four years ago against West Indies.

A few minutes later, Omarzai bowled perhaps the best delivery of the night, a peach that angled in and moved away from the right-handed Maxwell after pitching. It looked like the batter was gone for all money.

It wasn’t eleven players who went up; it was a country of 4.01 crore who went up in unison. But nope. Maxwell survived. 

Heading into this contest, the all-rounder wasn’t nearly as ready. He hadn’t gone through any high-intensity workouts. None, in his own admission. 

But at 49/4, it was intensity of the highest order. It was time for him to be Australia’s greatest cricketing superhero. Exactly 12 balls into his innings, Maxwell started losing partners at the other end till he got to a point where Australia were staring at a grim wall of 91/7, with a win percentage of just 2%. 

“A black day in Australia’s cricketing history” headlines would have already been typed at various newsdesks from Sydney to Canberra. 

When the finger went up, at 101/8, newspapers probably would already have started printing. Maxwell got beat trying to play a shot. Noor Ahmad was confident, and the umpire was adamant as the Afghanistani players huddled in joy. There was absolute buzzing around the venue as Afghan supporters brought the roof down. 

Maxwell hoped that the ball would have pitched outside the leg-stump line. But nope, it was right in line. Maxwell started heading back to the dressing room. In any other universe, he would have cursed his shot selection all the way back to the changing room. 

The Cricketing gods, though, said not today.

The ball tracking showed the ball to be going well over the stumps. Maxwell couldn’t believe his luck as he moonwalked back to the crease. This time, the smile seemed genuine. Three deliveries later, the all-rounder hung his head in shame, thinking he was a goner, but Mujeeb ur Rahman dropped an (absolute) sitter, giving him another life. 

Destiny was so adamant that Maxwell lived the life of a cat. He could have plucked a stump from the non-striker’s end and tried to hit Rashid’s delivery; it would have still travelled a long mile into Churchgate and sandwiched itself between multiple people in a fast train heading towards Virar. 

Thus started an innings that will go down in the sport’s history. With Pat Cummins at the other end, it was a 2% chance, 98% belief. Or, in this case, 1% Cummins, 99% Maxwell. It was a tight slip to Maxwell, who was flirting too much with danger. 

“It would have been nice if it was a chanceless knock, but I had my chances, to make the most of it tonight was something I can be proud of,” Maxwell admitted in the post-match presentation. 

But what happened in the aftermath was anything but chanceless. When he got to his 50, he put his bat up briefly, but his head was always down. He was so determined that you started to side with him. Noor, Mujeeb or Rashid, the bowler, rarely mattered. 

It got to a point where the pressure was on Afghanistan. At this juncture, Maxwell was so relaxed that his body temperature might have been lower than usual. Upon reaching 100, like his half-century, the big Victorian just gently raised his bat. None of that extravagant “cradle” celebration that he did against the Netherlands. 

His century wasn’t extraordinary (yet) in any sense. 

Maxwell’s innings really only started an over after he got to his century. Just an over after drinks, the all-rounder fell flat on the ground with cramps. It looked like a hamstring at first, but as it progressed, it felt like the all-rounder was just minutes away from taking a nap between the two sets of stumps at either end. 

Singles were no longer an option. That’s where the greatness of this innings lies. It lies in the detailing. It lies in the segment where Maxwell increasingly looked like a man who would faint on the cricket field, and Afghanistan were playing their part in the greatness. 


“Oh no, Maxwell has gone down. He needs more medical attention, and the umpires aren’t too happy. They want him to head back to the dressing room.” 

Maxwell’s cramps had reached the point where even liquids were like gas. Adam Zampa breezed his way to the boundary rope. He was just one foot away from entering the pitch, but the all-rounder didn’t budge. The Victorian did not want to leave the run-chase to the bowlers.

“I thought he was going off; we signalled to Zamps to get down there. Physio (Ben Jones) was there, and he was trying to convince Maxi (Maxwell) that if he came off, he would be worse. His best bet is probably to be back there and bat,” Cummins shed light on the entire incident. 

Maxwell wouldn’t come off, even if it came at the cost of him potentially going down for the rest of the tournament. That’s when he realised that it was boundaries or nothing. 

The partnership had stretched itself to 146 runs, a record for the eight-wicket or lower. Things then went wild. There were scoops, reverse scoops and some extraordinary hitting that cricketers struggle to do on two legs, let alone one. 

The best of the lot was on 249/7 when Maxwell barely moved his left leg, reversing a delivery into the second tier. With the all-rounder batting on 165, the only thing good that remained for Afghanistan - hope - was vanishing in thin air. 

With 21 off 24 and Rashid bowled out, the countdown was perhaps when Australia would get over the finishing line and not if Afghanistan would win. But in the span of five deliveries, Maxwell ended the contest with six, six, four and a mighty six. 

That six at the end scripted history. Maxwell got to his double-century with a six. 201*, all Cummins did was raise his hand and be stunned, a feeling Afghanistan bowlers could resonate with. 

Finally, Maxwell had the adrenaline surge that he needed; he punched the air. It wasn’t a knock for the decade; it wasn’t a knock for the century, it was a knock for the ages. 

His century might not have been extraordinary, but his double-century will remain folklore, just like Kusal Perera's 153 against South Africa. At the other end, Cummins’ 68-ball 12 might just be another footnote like Jack Leach’s glorious one not-out.

“This is a sport for crazy people, a unique sport. Any kid who was in the Camp Nou tonight will never forget this in their life,” Luis Enrique said. 

Maybe it is the kids at the Wankhede tonight who will never forget Maxwell’s knock in their whole damn life.

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