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The ‘tee off (not recklessly)’ dilemma: Glenn Maxwell on the trouble with batting down the order

Australia’s narrow win over Afghanistan on Friday featured a number of intriguing selection decisions from the tournament hosts.

The four-run victory, which could be Australia’s final match of the tournament should Sri Lanka fail to beat England on Saturday, saw Australia leave out batters Aaron Finch and Tim David with fitness concerns and drop Mitchell Starc for “tactical reasons”.

Australia’s selection response to Finch and David’s absence was to draft in Cameron Green and Steve Smith into the top four, which had the knock-on effect of pushing talismanic batter Glenn Maxwell down to six in the order.

Maxwell came in with the score at 84/6 midway through the eleventh over, and helped lift his side with an unbeaten 54* from 32 deliveries as wickets fell around him.

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But the experienced T20 batter, who typically plays one, two or even three spots higher in the batting order in the format, says he found it slightly tricky to go as big as he wanted from number six.

“I was looking for boundary options, but in the position batting at six there wasn’t as much behind me to go hell for leather and strike at 250 consistently.

“And the conditions weren’t 100 percent favourable for batting at the start of the day, it was a little bit slow, there was a bit of inconsistent bounce.”

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Maxwell hit eight boundaries in his half-century, including two maximums.

But the 34-year-old described the quandary of trying to power hit but safely... or “tee off (not recklessly)” as the late Shane Warne once put it.

And in Maxwell’s experience, producing that sort of innings against a quality attack such as Afghanistan’s is not straightforward.

“It was really weird trying to sort of safe slog, or safe power-hit.

"And it’s not like we were playing against a bowling machine, we were playing against a highly-skilled attack who executed well.”

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Australia knew that they needed a significant margin of victory to overtake qualification rivals England on net run rate and add an extra degree of difficulty to Jos Buttler’s side’s task on Saturday against Sri Lanka.

But Afghanistan chased well, meaning an England win in Sydney by any margin would end Australia’s title defence at the Super 12 stage.

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And Maxwell has credited Afghanistan’s approach with the bat for denying Australia the impact they were targeting.

“We thought if we bowled well enough, created chances, hopefully our experience would prevail. They played some serious shots as well. The opposition are allowed to have a say in what you do.

“They came out with great intent, put us on the back foot. Then we were able to really respond.

“Sometimes throughout the tournament we probably haven’t responded as well, but I thought we did really well to sort of hold them back again and keep fighting hard. We’re proud of the effort we put in.”

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