Unleashing sustained fury at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Australia stormed past the highest ever T20I total in the opening game against Sri Lanka. On an even paced surface, Glenn Maxwell took center stage and threatened to do the same for the individual score too only to fall short by a mere 11 runs.
The Lankans led by Dinesh Chandimal might have not expected this kind of carnage when they opted to field upon winning the toss. Surprisingly, Maxwell opened the proceedings alongside skipper David Warner.
After a sedate couple of overs, the left-hander kick started the chaos with four successive boundaries off medium pacer Kasun Rajitha. When he succumbed to spin, the hosts would have anticipated some respite.
However, Maxwell targeted the fence relentlessly by preying on wayward bowling from their seamers. Thisara Perera, in particular, came up with quite a few deliveries which would have been out of place even at club level.
Unfurling his signature reverse-sweep against a remodeled Sachitra Senanayake, the hard-hitter managed to outdo any plan or field placement that was set for him. The full-tosses piled up and he kept swinging the willow without any inhibition.
At the other end, Usman Khawaja appeared pedestrian despite striking in the 160s. Enticed by a floater from Sachith Pathirana, he could not connect properly and brought long-off into play.
Even as the bowlers tried to stifle his thought-process by attempting different variations of slower deliveries, Maxwell was up for it and did not offer any let-up by dispatching those towards the shorter boundaries. Fittingly, it was a full-toss that brought up his maiden century in T20s.
But, ’The Big Show’ was not done yet. When Chandimal had no other option other than turning to his spinners to pull things back, he manhandled Senanayake with three consecutive sixes as the Aussies crossed the 200-mark in the 17th over itself.
Having been overlooked for the preceding ODI series as well as the upcoming one against South Africa, Maxwell seemed intent on sending a riposte to the selectors who had publicly demanded consistency from him.
Not wanting to miss out on the action, Travis Head decided to aggravate the home side’s woes by wielding the long handle himself. After being reprieved by a shoddy Dhananjaya de Silva, the southpaw closed the innings at 263/ 3 to ensure that Sri Lanka’s mauling of Kenya during the 2007 World T20 was bettered by three runs.
Eager to extend their dominance to the bowling department as well, Australia dealt early blows to douse any hopes of an equivalent response. Possessing contrasting styles, Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland picked up three wickets apiece to complete a 85-run rout.
At the post-match presentation, a visibly delighted Maxwell quipped, “(It was) a little bit instinctive, tried to hit my areas based on the field. (I have) been playing really well in the T20 format, at the top is an easier place to bat. I find the reverse sweep easier to play (than the sweep). (I was) lucky to take advantage of some loose bowling.”Published 06 Sep 2016, 23:19 IST