Gaikwad and Maxwell: two brilliant centuries, two vastly contrasting methods

India

It’s possible you are on a break from cricket after watching the ODI World Cup for the last month and a half and gave Tuesday night’s T20I a miss. But if you just had a glance at the final scorecard, perhaps to avoid the FOMO or sound intelligent in the office tomorrow, don’t get fooled into thinking Ruturaj Gaikwad and Glenn Maxwell played similar knocks.

They both scored hundreds at a strike rate of around 215, but there were more differences than similarities in the way they reached there.

When Gaikwad started his innings in the evening, the Guwahati pitch was helping fast bowlers. “I felt it was slightly tacky initially,” he said later. “The ball was stopping a little bit and there was some movement in the air and off the pitch as well.”

Jason Behrendorff exploited those conditions the best. After his three overs with the new ball, he had figures of 3-1-5-1, with just one scoring shot, one wide and 17 dots.

With India having lost Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ishan Kishan within the first three overs, Gaikwad decided to hold one end for some time while Suryakumar Yadav did the bulk of the scoring. The pair stabilised the innings by adding 57 off 47 balls. By now, the dew had also settled in, making the batting much easier.

Gaikwad was on a run-a-ball 22. But when Suryakumar got out, he pressed the accelerator and scored 28 in the next ten deliveries to bring up his fifty. As always, he collected most of his runs by playing proper cricketing shots.

Gaikwad showed his full range in the 18th over when he hit Aaron Hardie for three sixes and a four. The first ball was in the slot and Gaikwad deposited it over long-off. Hardie then went short outside off. Pre-mediating, Gaikwad had already stepped across and pulled it over deep midwicket. Three balls later, the seamer went full and wide. Gaikwad moved towards the off side once again, went down on one knee and swept it over long leg for another six.

An injury to Kane Richardson meant Matthew Wade handed the ball to Maxwell for the final over. Gaikwad took full advantage of that and hit three sixes and two fours in a 30-run over. At one stage, it looked like Australia would restrict India to around 200, but Gaikwad’s late assault lifted them to 222 for 3.

Gaikwad himself finished on an unbeaten 123 off 57, the second-highest individual score for India. He will not be able to make up for slow starts every time, but here his approach paid dividends.

It’s not often such a knock ends on the losing side. There’s only one higher score in T20Is – Shane Watson’s 124 not out against India in 2016 – that failed to win the game for his team. But Maxwell has been making seemingly impossible tasks possible of late, and he did the same on Tuesday.

While Gaikwad didn’t know what would be a safe total, Maxwell had the advantage of knowing the target. But at the same time, he didn’t have the luxury of getting his eye in. Throughout the chase, the asking rate was in the double digits, and above 15 for the last five overs. So Maxwell was under constant pressure to hit boundaries, and he deployed all sorts of innovative shots to do so.

Coming out to bat in the sixth over with Australia needing 157 from 14.2, Maxwell immediately took a liking to Prasidh Krishna‘s bowling. He started the eighth over, Prasidh’s second, with a swivelled pull for four, and capped it off with 6, 4 and 6. For the last two shots, he hopped on one leg and pulled the ball over the keeper and deep-backward square leg, respectively.

But with Marcus Stoinis struggling at the other end, Australia scored only 32 in the next five overs. Axar Patel and Ravi Bishnoi then sent back Stoinis and Tim David in the space of four balls to dent them further.

With 86 required from six overs, Maxwell went into overdrive. He reached his half-century with a reverse-lapped six off Arshdeep Singh and brought out the airplane celebration, mimicking the bowler’s celebration after Aaron Hardie’s wicket earlier in the innings. After that, it was Maxwell’s slightly open stance, a strong bottom hand, a snap of the wrists, and the ball going to and over the boundary line with increasing frequency.

Prasidh bowled an excellent 18th over, varying his pace and conceding only six. And despite Maxwell’s hitting, Australia needed 43 from the last two overs.

Wade took apart Axar in the 19th, bringing it down to 21 needed from six balls, but Prasidh once again had the ball. However, this time he looked helpless against a wet ball and a rampant Maxwell. With 16 required from four deliveries, Maxwell went 6, 4, 4 and 4 to seal the game and keep Australia alive in the series.

In the process, he brought up his fourth T20I hundred, equalling Rohit Sharma for the joint-most in the format. Coming off 47 balls, it was also the joint-fastest T20I ton for Australia, alongside Aaron Finch and Josh Inglis’ efforts. That it was Maxwell’s 100th T20I made it all the more special.

“I was pretty grumpy after having to bowl Maxi in the last over and that one going for 30,” Wade said. “We were right in the game until then; I think they were 190 going into that over. Unfortunately, that one went for a big one…but then Maxi probably wouldn’t have got a hundred if he hadn’t tossed up 30 anyway.”

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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