Glenn Maxwell has endured a topsy-turvy 2018, but after a half century punctuated by five sixes against Zimbabwe, he seems to be seeing the ball well again. 'Watch the ball' is a truism so simple it can sometimes get lost in cricket's reams of jargon, but that is all Maxwell is concentrating on at the moment. When he reached fifty, he pointed to his eyes to show his teammates - and his coach - that he's watching the ball.
"I've been doing a lot of work with JL [Justin Langer] recently, making sure I'm watching the ball as hard as I can," Maxwell said. "I've been doing a lot of work with that in the nets, making sure I'm really concentrating. That's all I'm thinking about at the moment. So that was just a little gesture towards him."
Maxwell started 2018 well, striking an unbeaten 103 to overcome England in the T20I tri-series in Hobart, but he has endured a lean spell since. He was out of sorts at the IPL and didn't look in the best touch in England. He was part of a weak middle-order effort in Australia's last match against Pakistan, but some time in the middle has finally brought some reward. Maxwell passed fifty for the first time in seven innings.
"It's nice to spend a bit of time out in the middle and get a little bit of momentum with my batting," Maxwell said. "I've been a little bit starved of opportunity, though I missed an opportunity to score some runs against Pakistan in the last game."
This match was a dead rubber in name only, with Zimbabwe finally turning up to produce what was the closest match of the tri-series so far. 'Dead rubber' is also a term you won't find Maxwell using when talking about an international fixture and he said "there's no such thing as a dead rubber when you're representing your country."
"It's another game for your country," he added. "Any time you get a chance to play for Australia is gold. Any time you get a chance to win a game for the country is something you have to take with both hands and never take for granted."
Australia don't have any cricket scheduled between the Zimbabwe tri-series and their trip to the UAE in October, and Maxwell suggested that he would fill the months with training in an effort to nail down a spot in Australia's touring squad. "I've got a lot of training [coming up]," he said. "There's not going to be many games between now and the UAE, so it will just be training and making sure my body is right if I am picked for that tour."
Maxwell has also set his sights on a return to Australia's Test squad for that tour. While circumstance has foisted a new era upon Australia, gaps in their batting order also mean opportunities for those on the fringe, and Maxwell is hoping that if he does get a chance he can hold onto a spot and add to the seven Tests he has played since making his red-ball debut five years ago.
"I'd love the opportunity to play in the Test team again. I've had mixed opportunities with the Test side and probably haven't completely grabbed it with both hands every time I have got an opportunity, so if I do get the opportunity I'll hopefully take it with both hands this time."
A spot in the A-side squad for two unofficial Tests against India A in September might have helped him to press his claims, and Maxwell was hoping to be included there. "I was hoping to go on [that tour], but as they pointed out I've been to India I think over 16 or 17 times now, so there's no real need for me to go over there and try and prove what I can do."
First, though, Australia have a tri-series final against Pakistan to look forward to.
"This is the No.1 team we're going up against in the final," Maxwell said. "We've had a little bit of success recently in tri-series, with our win in Australia and New Zealand in March, and we really want to keep that winning culture within this side going forward. And if we can continue to win the tri-series, regardless of where it is and who is playing, it just breeds a good culture within the side."