Australia’s World Cup preparations just keep getting rosier, with dynamic all-rounder Glenn Maxwell continuing his hot form last night in the fourth ODI against Pakistan in the UAE.
Australia were labouring at 4-101 after 22.1 overs when Maxwell came to the crease and hammered 98 from 82 balls, missing out on his ton only due to some unselfish running between wickets in the final over of the innings.
Just three months ago Maxwell’s ODI spot was hanging by a thread, having averaged only 24 with the bat in his previous 25 ODIs. His form trough was leaving a labouring Australian team poorly balanced due to the fact he was the only player in the side capable of consistently scoring at a scorching strike rate late in an ODI innings.
Maxwell remains the only Australian ODI batsman of this style. As I outlined yesterday, Marcus Stoinis, the man who is meant to be Australia’s second power hitter, has been scoring at snail pace for the past year.
In that time the West Australian, who was out for two last night, has averaged just 26 with the bat at an unacceptably low scoring rate of 4.92 runs per over.
Stoinis’s deep form trough with the blade has ratcheted up the pressure on Maxwell to produce ballistic strokeplay late in ODI innings. The Victorian has responded well. In his last dozen ODI innings Maxwell has made 423 runs at 38 with a furious strike rate of 120.
In that period he has been the only Australian ODI batsman who has consistently scored at a strike rate of 100 or better. While Stoinis started his ODI career as a swift scorer, his strike rate has plummeted to just 83 across his past 20 ODIs, calling into question his place in the side.
Maxwell is frequently criticised for being dismissed while playing big shots. But fans cannot have their Big Show cake and eat it too. You cannot reasonably expect a batsman to score at a level very rarely seen in the history of ODI cricket while also being consistent.
Australia already have enough batsmen who trade on their consistency. Maxwell, meanwhile, scares opposition attacks more than any other Australian batsman. Not only does he score at a remarkably rapid rate, but he is entirely unpredictable. Opponents cannot pack certain parts of the field and bowl to that area.
Maxwell is what has become known as a 360-degree player. That much was clear last night as he drove the Pakistan bowlers and skipper Imad Wasim to madness with his array of strokes.
Maxwell stepped inside some deliveries to flick them to fine leg. At other times he leaned across and shovelled the ball over square leg. Frequently he rocked back and hammered pull shots through mid wicket. As spinners overpitched, he thumped them between wide mid wicket and over their heads.
When the quicks made the same mistake he strode forward to drive them with intimidating power between mid off and cover. On the occasions they dropped a tad short he carved them over or behind point. Then, to round out that 360-degree arc, Maxwell reverse-swept spinners through a fine gully region for four.
In this mood the only ODI batsman in the world who is as difficult to contain as Maxwell is England superstar Jos Buttler. The neverending range of strokes that Maxwell boasts spins the heads of his opponents and earns him extra loose deliveries.
His resurgence could not have come at a better time for Australia. While they have a logjam of batsmen pressing for top-four spots, what they lack is proven power hitters. Right now Maxwell is the only Aussie who fits that bill. Luckily for them, he is running into blazing form just at the right time, two months out from the World Cup.