Wednesday, 19 June 2024
SL pummeled after Australia's record 263

SL pummeled after Australia's record 263

In 90 minutes of outlandish clean-striking, Glenn Maxwell marked a monumental return to form, sent Sri Lanka into freefall, and stole their T20I world record from under their noses.

The scorecard says he hit nine sixes in his 65-ball 145 not out, but it felt like he had hit so many more. It says there were 14 fours in this Maxwell mauling, but so quickly did they come, one after the other, that who is to tell when one boundary ended and another began? It was a blur of bludgeoned sweeps, of wallops down the ground and, occasionally, of enterprising strokes behind the wicket. Australia made 263 for 3. This is the joint-highest T20 score, in addition to being the biggest score in T20 internationals, beating the 260 Sri Lanka had hit against Kenya.

Maxwell had opened the innings in place of the injured Aaron Finch, and he quickly set about knocking Sri Lanka's bowlers out of shape. So battered were they by the end of the Powerplay, in which Australia had cracked 73 for 1, that they soon became helplessly complicit in Maxwell's plunder. Thigh-high full tosses were sent down with masochistic abandon. Errors bred further errors in the outfield. In the 18th over, a catch was dropped, though that was off Travis Head, who was the second-highest scorer with 45 off 18 balls. Each of Sri Lanka's four main bowlers conceded at least 12.75 per over.

The hosts' batting went much better, though they were never really in the hunt. The top three fell cheaply, but Dinesh Chandimal hit 58 off 43 and Chamara Kapugedera 43 off 25. Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland took three wickets apiece, as Sri Lanka finished on 178 for 9 - 86 runs short of the 264-run target.

The first over had cost Sri Lanka only three runs, and though Maxwell hit the innings' first boundary - smoking an overpitched Suranga Lakmal delivery through cover - it was David Warner who doused the scene with petrol, and began the raging fire. Warner eyed up seamer Kasun Rajitha, playing his third international, and banged four consecutive fours in the third over, three of those coming on the off side. It was not long before Maxwell matched that aggression. The first six of the match was a reverse-sweep off Sachithra Senanayake. A four followed next ball, off the same shot.

Neither Warner's dismissal by Senanayake nor the end of the Powerplay made much difference to Maxwell's approach. Decent balls - like Rajitha's slower one on the stumps in the ninth over - where whacked disdainfully over long-on. Then when the bad balls came, like the full toss from Rajitha immediately after, Maxwell biffed that over the boundary as well.

The first of those consecutive sixes brought him his half-century, off 27 balls. He took a further 22 to reach his hundred. Sri Lanka rifled through bowlers in this period, trying off spin, left-arm spin, seam, and whatever it is that Thisara Perera bowls. None of this could make so much as a dent in Maxwell's confidence, which by now was magnetic. Thisara, in fact, came closest to getting him out, in the 13th over, though that wasn't particularly close: Kapugedera, who caught Maxwell on the deep midwicket boundary, had trod on the rope and had to abandon the catch anyway as his momentum was taking him over the rope.

Having reached his first T20 century, and second in international cricket (both have come against Sri Lanka), Maxwell set his sights on the records. His first six in triple figures was perhaps the best of the lot, as he sliced Lakmal beautifully over the deep-cover boundary, immediately after having hit a four to fine leg. Finch, running the drinks in this match, holds the individual T20 record of 156, and Maxwell was in pursuit. When he biffed three consecutive sixes over long-on, off Senanayake, he moved to 134, with 19 balls still remaining in the innings. Head, though, indulged in some brutality of his own, hitting three sixes and four fours in his innings. One of those sixes came over long-on, off Thisara Perera. It was that shot which gave Australia the team total record.

Tillakaratne Dilshan has led outrageous chases before, but when he was bowled trying to clang a Mitchell Starc ball through the leg side in the first over, Sri Lanka's already slim chances became even slimmer. Kusal Perera was out slashing Boland to third man, soon after. By the end of the Powerplay, Sri Lanka had mustered 56 for 3, but with the required rate almost 15, the chase just became about limiting the severity of the loss.

Kusal Mendis made an attractive 22 replete with a pulled six off James Faulkner, and an imperious, lofted off-drive off Moises Henriques, but he was out in the eighth over. Chandimal pulled his team through those early overs, scoring heavily with his horizontal bat shots, the flat-batted four down the ground off Boland in the fourth over the most memorable among them.

Chandimal and Kapugedera put on Sri Lanka's best partnership, taking a particular liking to the spinners as they made 44 from 29 balls. But they both holed out soon enough. Sri Lanka hit 100 runs in boundaries. Maxwell, who had been dropped from the squad entirely for the ODIs, struck 110 in boundaries by himself.