Bowling success an unexpected boost for Glenn Maxwell

With spin set to play a key role at the World Cup, Maxwell could have a vital part to play in providing Australia the balance they want

Glenn Maxwell appeals, Lancashire v Worcestershire, Royal London Cup, Old Trafford, April 27, 2019

Glenn Maxwell appeals  •  Getty Images

The closest Glenn Maxwell got to the IPL this year was texting David Warner about his outstanding form, but he is hopeful of being proven right in having opted for county cricket before the World Cup after his brief first spell with Lancashire produced an unexpectedly key role with the ball.
While some of his Australian team-mates were in India, Maxwell played one County Championship match and six one-day games. Though his top score was just 35, it was his success with the ball, which included a maiden five-wicket haul in the Championship and eight one-day wickets, that has proved timely.
Australia captain Aaron Finch has said that he expected spin to play "huge role" in the World Cup, but it would appear tough for Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa to both find a starting place in the XI in England with Australia likely to want a third frontline quick in the ranks compared to the balance they had in India and in the UAE. That puts the onus back on Maxwell to be the second spinner and after his role with Lancashire over the last few weeks, his confidence is high.
I was able to get a lot of overs and find a rhythm I probably haven't had for a while
Maxwell bowled his full allocation of ten overs in four of his six limited-overs matches and signed off with 3 for 42 against Durham, which included the wicket of Cameron Bancroft.
"Certainly the bowling part I didn't expect," Maxwell said during Australia's pre-World Cup camp in Brisbane. "I was able to get a lot of overs and find a rhythm I probably haven't had for a while. To get some time at the bowling crease and get some real good feel out of that was nice."
"I think with myself and Marcus Stoinis able to be a fifth or sixth bowler, depending on what sort of side we go with, to have those extra overs is really important for Aaron to have at his disposal. If we can be relied on to bowl key overs, even if it's in the Powerplay or at the end, that's going to be really important.
"It was a great month, and I'm looking forward to going there at the back-end of the World Cup as well. Hopefully I have a successful World Cup and then we can give it a big tick."
However, Maxwell's role at this year's tournament is unlikely to be the same as in 2015, when Australia shunned a frontline spinner in favour of hitting the opposition with pace, leaving Maxwell as the only spin option. In the intervening years, spin has played an increasingly important role for all one-day sides, but Australia had lagged behind until quite recently when they threw their weight behind Zampa and Lyon.
Still, it's with the bat that Maxwell could really light up the World Cup. Having slipped to No. 7 during the home summer, as Australia tried to work out how they wanted the one-day side to play, he emerged with the role that many have long thought was right: floating in the middle order, ready to take on the game situation, the way he did in the last World Cup during which his lone ODI hundred came from No. 5: 102 off 53 balls against Sri Lanka. In India and the UAE, he batted from three to six, closing that run of matches with scores of 71, 98 and 70. They were vital innings for a player who has dealt with a host of mixed messages.
"It was probably only after the Dubai series where I felt really comfortable with where my game was at," he said. "I was able to play three really consistent innings, and all completely different - I went about it in different ways in all three of them. So I think that adaptability and consistency is something that Australian cricket and the fans have always really wanted from me. So to do it in three different ways, at different times, was really pleasing for me personally, but it's something I need to continue to work on to continue being successful.
"I generally work with JL [Justin Langer], just keep asking him what he wants from me, and it'll get to a point where he'll say 'go put 'em on'. He'll send a message out to Aaron, ask him what he thinks, and that's how we get to that decision. It was something that I did reasonably well in 2015, so we're sort of trying to emulate that in this World Cup. Hopefully I can do it similar."
English conditions are not foreign to the Australian squad, but Maxwell's spell with Lancashire, though early season, also gave him the chance to get a taste of what could be on offer. He was involved in an extraordinary game at Trent Bridge, where Lancashire came within a whisker of chasing down Nottinghamshire's 417. Australia play two of their group matches, against West Indies and Bangladesh, at Trent Bridge and it was also the venue where their under-strength team was plundered for a world-record 481 by England last year.
Some of the domestic one-day games were played to the edges of wicket blocks while the main pitches were protected for the marque games to come, but Maxwell still expects some heavy scoring at the World Cup.
"There might be a couple of games that are extremely high-scoring. That was the extreme part at Trent Bridge where you've got the corner boundary which is quite a cut off. We should've basically chased 417, and that's the sort of conditions we're going to be exposed to. It didn't really spin a whole lot. It wasn't lightning fast, the wickets, and there wasn't a lot of swing. It should be interesting for the bowlers over there."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo