Conceding less than five runs an over this World Cup, Glenn Maxwell’s form with the ball is rated highly internally
Maxwell's other role 'pivotal' to World Cup prospects
Teammates and coaches are still marvelling at Glenn Maxwell's effort with the bat two nights ago, but coach Andrew McDonald has revealed how the allrounder's bowling has transformed Australia's World Cup prospects.
Maxwell's extraordinary innings against Afghanistan saw his side set up a semi-final date with South Africa, the last team to have beaten the Aussies before they commenced a six-game winning streak.
In that time, the 35-year-old has hit the World Cup's fastest century (off 40 balls, against the Netherlands) and second-fastest double-century (128 balls, against the Afghans) to enhance his reputation as one of world cricket's most damaging batters.
Yet the Aussies believe Maxwell's other discipline has been equally important to their tournament prospects. The off-spinner has taken only five wickets at 52, but has been their most economical bowler, conceding just 4.95 per over.
Of players who have regularly batted in the top seven for their teams and sent down at least 20 overs, only India’s Ravindra Jadeja (3.76), Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi (4.25) and the Netherlands’ Colin Ackermann (4.71) have been more miserly.
Maxwell’s overs have been crucial for an Australian side that came into the World Cup still figuring out how many allrounders they need for any given match.
The fact Maxwell has been able to bowl more than twice as many overs for the tournament (52.3) than seamers Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Cameron Green (23 between them) has been a surprise even to McDonald.
Australia’s selection picture has been complicated by the inconvenience of not having their full complement of players available for any of their eight games so far.
When and if they do have a 15-player squad to pick from, pitch conditions will determine whether the final spot in their side is a batter or an allrounder, likely creating a squeeze between Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Stoinis.
"I think it will be based on the surface," McDonald told reporters when asked about what Australia's best XI will be for next week's knockout match against the Proteas in Kolkata or Mumbai.
"If we think that we've got a surface that's challenging in a certain area – playing against spin, or whatever it might be – then you can shift in one direction.
"If you think you need the bowling coverage – if you think you're going to get exposed there – then the more bowling options we have, we feel as though we can cover anything that may come up in terms of the opposition batting.
"Albeit we probably haven’t used those extra allrounder overs the way the way we would (have predicted).
"I think that's because of the strength of Glenn Maxwell. Him as the second spinner has been really pivotal in the role that he's played.
"We talk about him and his batting in one space, but I think his bowling has allowed us to function as a team different to potentially how we saw it coming in and potentially how everyone else saw it coming in."
Steve Smith was the latest to have kept Australia's medical staff busy after the batter earlier this week suffered an episode of vertigo, an ailment he has suffered on several occasions in recent years.
With the Aussies' planned training session in Pune cancelled on Thursday, the sight of Smith joining teammates to play golf instead was an encouraging sign the 34-year-old is on track to play Bangladesh in their final group-stage match.
"He feels pretty good today, I saw him in the corridor," McDonald said of Smith, who failed a fitness test before the Afghanistan match and then spent the rest of the day at the team hotel.
"I feel like it just happened at the wrong time for him not to play that game, whereas if it had been 24 hours later, then it might have been a different decision.
"But I don't have a great understanding of what it all means.
"He was battling with his balance on certain shots. He went through some running between the wickets as well which probably aggravated it a little bit more."
Australia may well elect to rest players for their tie with eighth-placed Bangladesh, who, unlike their opponents, have plenty to play for on Saturday. A loss would put them in danger of missing qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy.
McDonald however flagged that an eight or nine-day break between the Afghanistan match and their semi-final (which will be confirmed to be played in Kolkata next Thursday if New Zealand beat Sri Lanka today) may not necessarily be beneficial.
"It might just be the fact that it's a bit bigger gap – you're hinting at resting players leading into the South Africa game – it then becomes a week in between games. Is that ideal?" he said.
"It might be for some but for others you want that continuity of playing to get ready for what will be a great challenge that is South Africa."
Australia's 2023 ODI World Cup fixtures
October 8: Lost to India by six wickets
October 12: Lost to South Africa by 134 runs
October 16: Beat Sri Lanka by five wickets
October 20: Beat Pakistan by 62 runs
October 25: Beat Netherlands by 309 runs
October 28: Beat New Zealand by five runs
November 4: Beat England by 33 runs
November 7: Beat Afghanistan by three wickets
November 11: v Bangladesh, Pune, 4pm AEDT
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa