Glenn Maxwell claims Australia have taken a significant step forward facing spin on the sub-continent after he powered the tourists to their best ever chase against Sri Lanka in a one-day international.
Maxwell starred in Australia’s rain-affected two-wicket win in Tuesday’s series opener, thumping an unbeaten 80 off 51 balls to help his team haul in a reduced target of 282 from 42 overs.
The knock came in Maxwell’s first ODI since December 2020; the allrounder keeping his cool as wickets fell around him to finish off the game with nine balls to spare.
Australia continually put themselves in front of the Pallekele contest, only for limping spinner Wanindu Hasaranga to keep Sri Lanka in it with 4-58.
Left-arm tweaker Dunith Wellalage also claimed two wickets on debut and mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana one on a slow used pitch.
But Maxwell pointed to the fact the team did not fall apart chasing in spinning conditions was a step forward ahead of next year’s World Cup in India.
Marcus Stoinis and Aaron Finch both hit 44 and Steve Smith 53, as Australia wobbled a few times but were able to regroup.
“They get a couple of wickets and all of a sudden the whole momentum of the game changes and the crowd gets involved and it can be a very daunting place,” Maxwell said.
“But to be able to combat that is a really good sign that we’re moving in the right direction.
“I know in the past we’ve had our troubles on these sorts of surfaces, but I feel like we’re making a step in the right direction with our middle order performing.”
After being in control at 2-126, 4-189 and eventually 5-228 before Hasaranga dismissed Alex Carey and Pat Cummins in one over, Maxwell turned on the big show.
The 33-year-old pumped seven sixes in his 51-ball knock, pulling powerfully through the legside whenever the hosts got their lengths wrong.
He took 15 off Theekshana in the over after Hasaranga’s double blow, and then scored 27 of the final 28 runs after Ashton Agar became the eighth Australian to fall.
“That was an extraordinary innings by Maxwell,” captain Finch said.
“It was pure class. He showed a lot of skills and game smarts.”
But it wasn’t all positive for Australia.
Agar could be added to their growing injury ward, needing scans on his side and threatening to join Mitchell Starc and Mitch Marsh on the sideline with Kane Richardson and Sean Abbott already sent home.
Questions will also be asked of their three-paceman bowling set-up ahead of the World Cup, after Mitchell Swepson was left out with Adam Zampa on paternity leave.
Agar (2-49) and Maxwell both bowled 10 overs each, while Marnus Labuschagne was called upon for three late.
Australia’s quicks struggled to get anything out of the slow pitch, as Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Jhye Richardson went for a combined 1-166 from their 26 overs.
Meanwhile Hasaranga’s brave effort with the ball came after he hit 37 from 19 balls late for Sri Lanka, while Kusal Mendis also struck 86 from to help them to 7-300 after being 0-115 early.