“Just looking at the way he trains, I think he could train a little bit smarter,” the words of Australia Test and ODI captain Steve Smith last month when it was announced Glenn Maxwell was overlooked for the five-match 50-over series against England.
Funny, that. Maybe the country’s selectors should have been a bit smarter and picked him. One thing’s for sure, they certainly would have been smarting after that 4-1 drubbing.
After smashing a match-winning 103 not out in just 58 balls in the five-wicket Trans-Tasman T20 Series victory over the old enemy on Wednesday, there was Smith, who is playing no part in the series, again – tweeting: “Well played @Gmaxi_32 top drawer!”. The first reply was: “Imagine if he was a smarter trainer”.
And there lies a key point. Cricket is a sport in which sometimes you have to look beyond performances in monotonous net sessions or back those that just tow the PR-spun line of the skipper. The game needs mavericks, as they are often match-winners who can turn things on its head. Maxwell will always be one of those and when he’s batting with a point to prove, you feel sorry for the opposition.
Below-par Australia were crying out for someone of his stupendous hitting ability in the ODI series, someone who could come in and blast the opposition out of the ground. Delhi Daredevils, the IPL team which snapped up the 29-year-old for $1.75 million (Dh5.5m), certainly didn’t miss a trick and see the Victorian as a key part of their plans.
While of course Maxwell had an element of luck, being dropped twice during his innings in Hobart, which was his second T20I ton and elevated his strike-rate to 166.72, the cliche goes that you make your own. He also became the first man to score a century and take three wickets in T20I cricket. Pretty handy indeed.
The way Maxwell dealt with the threat of Adil Rashid’s leg-spin is something we have seldom seen of late from Australia’s batsmen in limited-overs cricket – he picked him with ease. Along with Colin Munro, he and Maxwell are the only two batsmen in the world who average over 25 with the bat as well as a strike-rate of 150 plus in 20-over cricket. These type of players don’t grow on trees.
Australia must get Maxwell, a man of 81 ODIs, back into their 50-over ranks ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Great win Australia. Well played @Gmaxi_32 top drawer!
— Steve Smith (@stevesmith49) February 7, 2018
Afghanistan’s star leg-spinner Rashid Khan has joined Sussex for part of the T20 Blast, the county announced on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old leggie will make his maiden appearance in English cricket by playing in the first half of this year’s T20 tournament.
Khan, who has taken 45 wickets in 28 T20 internationals for his country, helped Adelaide Strikers win the BBL this year and ended the tournament as the joint-highest wicket-taker with 18 scalps from 11 games.
Sussex’s new head coach Jason Gillespie led the Strikers to victory and is excited to work with Khan again.
Gillespie said: “His form for Afghanistan and the T20 teams he has played for over the last couple of years has been phenomenal.
“I have worked closely with Rash at the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL and have been incredibly impressed with his attitude, work ethic and team-first mentality.”
Khan added: “It has always been an ambition of mine to play county cricket and the fact I get to link up again with Dizzy (Gillespie) is very exciting.
“I have heard a lot of good things about Sussex and am excited to join a talented squad and I hope to help the team push for T20 silverware.”
Potential Sussex T20 attack: Jordan, Archer, Mills, Garton, Rashid Khan. Pace, pace, pace, pace and world-class legspin— Andrew McGlashan (@andymcg_cricket) February 6, 2018
The development came a day after Khan took three wickets during to a five-wicket win over Zimbabwe in a T20 International in Sharjah.
Khan, who was signed by Sunrisers Hyderabad for $1.41 million in last month’s Indian Premier League auction, returned figures of 3-19 from his four overs as Zimbabwe were restricted to 120-9.
Mohammad Shahzad clubbed a pair of sixes in an 11-ball 20 to ensure Afghanistan made a promising start to their chase. A middle-order wobble reduced Afghanistan to 85-5 but Mohammad Nabi hit a quick-fire 40 to guide his team to victory with more than five overs to spare.
We look at the key talking points as the top two ranked ODI sides resume their battle.
HOSTS’ INJURY CRISIS DEEPENS
South Africa had been struck a big blow before the start of the series when they lost AB De Villiers to injury for the first three matches.
They received another jolt when skipper Faf du Plessis was ruled out for the remainder of the series after a brilliant hundred in the loss at Durban.
Things have now gone from bad to worse with the Proteas losing a third frontline batsman in Quinton de Kock to a finger injury. Though De Villiers is nearing a return, the hosts will be hoping that the other two can regain their fitness in time for the upcoming Tests against Australia.
It will be Hashim Amla who will have to shoulder the responsibility of propping up an uninspiring batting card.
PROTEAS FACE ANOTHER TRIAL BY WRIST-SPIN
In the two defeats so far, South Africa’s vulnerability against the wrist-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav has been the common theme. Thirteen of their 18 wickets to fall have come against India’s newest spin-twins.
South Africa’s problems against the turning ball have been compounded by Amla, their best player of spin, being dismissed cheaply before the spinners have come on in both games.
Chahal and Kuldeep have managed to immediately shackle the Proteas batsmen from the very get go and their willingness to give the ball some air and mix up the speeds has worked like a treat.
This battle will once again be the decisive factor on Wednesday and the hosts will need to work out a strategy to take on the spin-twins to have any chance.
CAN SOUTH AFRICA TEST INDIA’S MIDDLE-ORDER?
If there is one area in the team India are still trying to figure out the best combination for in the lead up to the 2019 ICC World Cup, it is their lower middle-order.
South Africa’s bowlers will be hoping to get in India’s untested middle-order in fairly early but for that they will have to stop an in-form Kohli.
ROHIT SHARMA DUE A BIG ONE
India’s deputy skipper Rohit Sharma has been in a rich vein of form when it comes to limited-overs cricket in 2017 where he registered six ODI centuries including a world-record third career double ton.
However, 2018 has not been kind to the Indian opener so far after he failed to cross the 50-run mark in each of the six innings he has played on the South African tour so far.
78 runs came in his four Test innings on the tour while he has scored 20 and 15 in the opening two ODIs so far.
Rohit will be itching to get out of this mini-lean patch and show once again why he is considered one of the most dangerous limited-overs batsmen around.