Manchester, Sept. 17: A magnificent stand of 212 between Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell has piloted Australia to a thrilling three-wicket victory in the final one-day international, both men completing centuries to defeat the world champions in an ODI series on their home soil for the first time in five years.
There was a late wobble as the century-makers fell in the 48th and 49th overs to leave Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins 10 runs to make from the final over. Starc made short work of that, hitting Adil Rashid back over his head for six then sweeping him for four – the finish line reached with two balls to spare to complete the tour in brilliant style.
Maxwell and Carey came together at 5-73 in the 17th over with Australia in serious strife, but the hosts had no answer to the combination's calculated hitting and dedicated accumulation until Maxwell top-edged Rashid with 18 runs to get from 15 balls. Then, when Carey steered Jofra Archer's delivery towards Mark Wood from the final ball of the penultimate over, it was game on again. But Starc held his nerve, appropriately so after taking wickets from the first two balls of the match some eight hours earlier. The response on the balcony said it all – this meant a lot.
It was a landmark night for Carey, this his first international century and the first for an Australian wicketkeeper in an ODI since 2010, making 106 from 114 balls. For Maxwell, the man of the match, it was the sixth time he's registered three figures and the second in this format – his joyous hand of 108 coming from just 90 balls, including seven towering sixes.
Both men benefited from a touch of luck, Carey recalled after deflecting a catch to third man on nine – Archer retrospectively shown to have overstepped – before Maxwell was put down twice by Jos Buttler; two tough chances. That did not detract from the historic achievement across 189 balls together, the highest-ever sixth-wicket union in an ODI chase.
That England still made it to 7-302 after spectacularly losing Jason Roy and Joe Root from the first two balls of the afternoon – Starc prompting a sliced drive to Maxwell to begin the afternoon, then the latter with a perfect inswinger – was principally down to Jonny Bairstow. The opener led the recovery effort before going on to lodge his 10th ODI ton, eventually out for 112 in the 41st over. He was supported by Sam Billings (57) through the middle overs before Chris Woakes whacked 53 not out from 39 balls, with 84 added in the final 10.
In reply, Australia were nowhere after Aaron Finch was trapped leg before wicket by Woakes on 12 then Marcus Stoinis (6) chipped a catch to mid-wicket off the same bowler. What followed was a masterstroke from Eoin Morgan, bringing Joe Root into the attack for some part-time off-spin that was good enough to bowl David Warner (24) then to earn Mitch Marsh's inside edge (2). By the time Sam Billings ran out Marnus Labuschagne from backward point (20), all signs pointed towards England making it 14 series wins on the trot in 50-over cricket.
It didn't take long after Maxwell walked in at number seven for the atmosphere to change, flicking Archer over square leg for six from the third ball he faced. Routinely taking on the short boundary to the eastern side of the ground, popping the dangerous Rashid into the stands in that direction four times – including once onto the balcony of the hospitality building – was enough to get England's primary spinner dragged from the attack.
Ultimately, it was his unexpected return to the fray in the 48th over that was Maxwell's undoing, moments after both men had posted three figures – the right-hander in 85 balls and Carey in 106. However, the call to keep Rashid on for the 50th was also defining, allowing Starc to hit hard with the spin the deliver the prized result to Finch's team.
"There wasn't much to lose so I thought I could put a bit more pressure on them and make the most of that short boundary early on and just back my bat swing," said Maxwell of his mindset. "I was able to get a couple clean early on in the innings and then started to build with Alex. And I knew once I got into the innings they would bowl a bit differently to me and I might be able to cash in on some loose balls but everything pretty much went to plan. The way our partnership was built was outstanding and I am really happy to get that result."
He added that his best for Australia often comes from positions of adversity. "It was probably hit or bust. If we lost another wicket in the next five or 10 overs it was pretty hard to expect the bowlers to do the job. So, once we started to build that partnership and take a couple of risks early and get away with them, we were able to rise with that momentum going forward. And then having trust in my own technique and in my partner at the other end, to get us to the point where Starcy and Cummo could get us over the line at the end was pretty awesome."
In terms of knocking off the world champions, Maxwell said it was a "massive" stepping stone. "For us to start our summer off after a long time in lockdown with a series win, it is pretty incredible for this group. We've worked so hard since coming together and it is just great that everyone could do the work back at home and when we got over here to get ourselves up to take on the world's best and beat them on their home soil."
Maxwell joins 19 other players from the two teams flying to the United Arab Emirates tomorrow morning for the Indian Premier League. It's a trip he will enjoy.-Agencies