Australia put defending champion England out of its misery.
Then war-torn Afghanistan, in a stunning display by a minnow, came within a whisker of turning the tables on the Aussies at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday.
But the Big Show — Glenn Maxwell — stood between the Afghanis and a shock result by putting on the greatest batting knock ever in a World Cup and, for that matter, in the game.
Hobbled by cramps, Maxwell clubbed sixes and fours on one foot. It was stunning and I cannot believe what I just saw.
He clubbed Afghanistan’s hopes of reaching the semis and signaled Australia cannot be ruled out of taking the trophy home for a record sixth time.
Afghanistan made 292 thanks to Ibrahim Zadran hitting his country’s first century and it looked poised to join India and South Africa in the semis. All hope is not lost as Afghanistan can still get through, but will have to battle with Pakistan and New Zealand for the remaining spot.
Maxwell strode to the crease at a ground he is familiar with from his early Indian Premier League days, with the Aussies struggling at 91 for seven.
Maxwell, who earlier had made the fastest century off just 40 balls against the Netherlands, massacred the Afghani bowlers, taking full taking advantage of being dropped twice. He shared a 202 stand with skipper Pat Cummins — whose contribution was a mere 12 — to power the Aussies to victory with 19 balls to spare and a likely confrontation with India in the semis.
“Just ridiculous, I don’t know how to describe it,’’ Cummins added. “A great win, but Maxi was just out of this world. It’s got to be the greatest ODI innings that has ever happened. He was great, he was calm.”
Maxwell hammered 10 fours and three sixes in his first century off 76 balls and then got his second ton off 44 balls as he finished with 21 fours and 10 sixes
Maxwell obviously has stolen the show in India in a tournament that will go down in the books as the greatest played, that included a number of shock results. The first phase of this tourney produced world-class batting, bowling and fielding. Throw in one controversial result, a team scoring more than 400 and still losing and poor organization by the host nation that has seen some matches played before small crowds.
Prior to Australia’s victory on Tuesday, there was Virat Kohli’s imperious batting that lifted the hopes of 1.2 billion Indians that the host nation is on path to land the World Cup trophy for the third time.
Kohli called his knock “the stuff of dreams” after drawing level with compatriot and legend Sachin Tendulkar on 49 centuries in ODIs as India crushed South Africa in Kolkata.
Kohli helped India post 326 for five before the previously high-flying Proteas were skittled for just 83 thanks to spinner Ravindra Jadeja claiming five for 33 and fast bowler Mohammed Shami taking two for 18.
It was South Africa’s second loss and there was immediate talk whether this squad will disintegrate in the heat as previous versions of the Proteas have done.
Tendulkar was among the first to send his greetings to Kohli.
“Well played, Virat.” he said. “It took me 365 days to go from 49 to 50. I hope you go from 49 to 50 and break my record in the next few days. Congratulations.”
Tendulkar is hoping Kohli continues with his hot form for the semis and then possibly the final.
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Meanwhile, the encounter between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was shrouded in controversy after Angelo Mathews became the first player in 146 years of international cricket to be “timed out.”
The loss meant Sri Lanka was relegated to the sidelines with already-eliminated England and Bangladesh.
The incident happened in the 25th over when Mathews walked out to the middle after the fall of the fourth wicket. But as he prepared to take his guard, he realized his chin strap had snapped and he signalled for a replacement helmet.
World Cup regulations stipulate the batsman must be ready to receive the ball within two minutes of the last wicket. But time had just elapsed and Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan appealed and umpire Marais Erasmus ruled Mathews out.
Mathews was left shellshocked and so was the rest of the world. Sri Lanka refused to shake hands with their opponents after Bangladesh chased down 280 for a win.
“It was disgraceful from Shakib and Bangladesh. If you want to play cricket like that and stoop down to that level, then there is something wrong, drastically,’’ Mathews said.
New Zealand hoisted 401 for six against Pakistan and still lost thanks to the D/L system as Pakistan replied with 200 for one with Fakhar Zaman making an unbeaten 126.
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