SK Elite: Glenn Maxwell's blistering 145 against Sri Lanka in Kandy
Australia unleashed their weapon of mass destruction, Glenn Maxwell, at the top of the order and reaped instant rewards.
Kandy is a beautiful city. Adorned with the rich history and culture of Buddhism and resting amidst the plateaus, it is a religious centre. The heart of Central Province and the pre-colonial capital of the ancient kings, the 30 square-kilometre city, home to The Temple of the Tooth Relic which was declared as a World Heritage site in 1988 by UNESCO, reeks of calmness.
Browse through world history and you would see that most historical and ancient cities in the world are struck by disasters - natural or unnatural - and plunge into oblivion. But Kandy withstood several invasions from the Portuguese and the Dutch in the late 15th century.
However, when fury strikes, there is little time to react and the city of Kandy bore witness to one such moment of mass destruction, not natural, not life-threatening, but a destruction nevertheless. On September 6th, 2016, an Australian cricket team buoyed by an ODI series victory after a tiring Test series, took on the Sri Lankans at Kandy in the first match of a three-match T20 series.
Unlike before, they had rejigged their batting line-up in the order of destruction, with David Warner joined by the mercurial Glenn Maxwell at the top. Opting to bowl first, Sri Lanka were faced with a tsunami, as potent as the actual one that wiped out a part of the nation in 2004.
In the next 90 minutes, the fury of 'Mad Max’well struck Sri Lanka hard, rocking the tranquility of the wonderful city of Kandy. 263 runs were scored in 20 overs, equalling the highest score in all T20s and beating Sri Lanka's record of 260 in international T20s.
Returning to the Australian side after a brief period away from the team, Maxwell had his wish to open the batting granted by coach Greg Blewett and skipper Warner. Aaron Finch's finger injury meant that Australia were slated to open with Usman Khawaja and Warner, but Maxwell's odd wish was not only given complete approval but also stamped with a license to do anything, including devouring Sri Lanka as a whole.
He did just that.
The first four balls hid the storm that was about to strike Sri Lanka hard. Just one run came from Maxwell's bat as he sedately took his time to read Sachithra Senanayake. Three balls into the next over from Suranga Lakmal and Maxwell was flailing his bat at thin air, like he is known to do.
But something was different today. He wasn't all power and no purpose. There seemed to be shades of maturity in his approach and shot selection, possibly stemming from a deep-rooted fear of being dropped from the squad again. Whatever it was, it turned out to motivate, instigate and spur on the right-hander on that day.
He watched in silence at the other end as Warner unleashed a barrage of boundaries at Kasun Rajitha. His partner had raced to 22 in 10 balls while he stood whistling to himself at 6 off 8 balls, biding his time.
When Senanayake returned to the attack, Maxwell was ready for him. He had seen enough of the off-spinner to casually switch stances and reverse sweep him over the ropes one ball before dishing out similar treatment, all along the ground this time.
By the time Thisara Perera jogged in, Maxwell had already plotted the bowler's downfall. Three boundaries came off his first over and when he returned a few overs later, the assassin murdered him over the fence, twice, both brutally.
In the meantime, he had dissected Rajitha and Sachith Pathirana to reach a half-century off 27 balls. Quite normal in this day and age of fanciful T20 cricket. But what came next was impromptu, unforeseen and terrifying.
“When I looked up and there was eight overs to go and I was 80 or 90, I got the sense it would be a big score. I didn't really realise how long there was left. I think I've made that mistake a few times playing in the IPL. I kept swinging until I was out. I probably played periods a bit smarter tonight. I knew if I mistimed it, it'd go in the gap,” Maxwell had said after the match, as revealed by ESPNCricinfo.
He took just 22 more deliveries to race to a maiden T20 hundred, in spite of Sri Lanka frantically rotating their seamers and spinners in an attempt to try and stop the disaster from striking. Chamara Kapugedara, in fact, almost held on to a stunner near the boundary ropes, but the force and power behind the shot seemed to blow him off the field of play.
Finch’s T20I record of 156 was well within Maxwell's sights by now. Always envious of opening batsmen who got to enjoy the field restrictions, Maxwell had tweeted about Finch's 18 ball half-century in an ODI during the same tour. "Can't be that hard to do it when you've got two [fielders] outside the circle,” read Maxwell's tweet.
At the time, it seemed plain arrogant, but Maxwell proved that he had a point with this blistering knock. Finch, nursing a finger injury, would have watched with anticipation as Maxwell roared closer to his T20 record.
He slogged Senanayake out of the attack with three consecutive sixes and raced to 134 with three overs left in the innings. But Travis Head indulged in some fun of his own, as he carted around the tired, weathered Sri Lankan bowlers for an 18 ball 45. Maxwell never got past 145 but the knock, which came off 65 balls, blew Sri Lanka away.
As he walked off the field, Finch applauded and hugged him. The injured opener knew that if anyone deserved to beat his record, it was Glenn ‘Mad Max’well.