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Match Analysis

Jonathan Trott rues key lapses as Glenn Maxwell teaches Afghanistan a bitter lesson

Head coach hopes young team learn ruthlessness after fielding costs them dear

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
You give someone like Glenn Maxwell a life when he's batting and he's going to run away with it. You get into a really good position and start thinking too far ahead, instead of focusing on your next step to finish things off, and the game can bite you pretty quickly.
Let's face it, if you drop a catch off Maxwell, you don't just give him another chance, you're helping him along the way. That is how Afghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott summed up his team's hardly believable three-wicket loss at the hands of a stunning double-century from Maxwell, who helped Australia script a come-from-behind win for the ages in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Trott lamented the fact that, after reducing Australia to 91 for 7 in a chase of 292, they gave Maxwell a life on 33 in the 22nd over, a sitter to Mujeeb Ur Rahman at short fine leg off Noor Ahmad's bowling. Australia still needed 180 runs from there and Maxwell went on to score as many as 168 of those to seal a victory that also took Australia to the semi-finals.
"Well, it's a case of we got ourselves into position and should have capitalised, obviously dropped two chances, and gave a person like Maxwell a chance," a dejected Trott said at the press conference after the game. "He's going to run with it and he almost played with a bit of freedom and almost freed him up a little bit, and gave a bit of momentum back to them. I thought it was a spectacular innings, a world-class innings. But, yeah, we certainly helped him along the way."
Trott is coaching a side that is still very young and fairly inexperienced. Twelve of their 15 players are under 30, and as many as 11 of those haven't turned 25 yet. Afghanistan are playing just their third ODI World Cup, and having registered wins against one world champion after another (England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan), they came so close to beating another on Tuesday. But the fact that they were within touching distance of their fourth straight win and a leap to fourth place on the points table, yet couldn't, will teach those players that the job isn't done until it's done, especially at the highest level of the game.
"I always think could we have done a few things slightly different, bowled certain areas, different bowlers here or there," Trott said. "Obviously, there are certain things you would like to try different now, but hindsight is a great thing. And so, it's a good lesson for our players because, in this game, if you take your eye off the ball just a little bit and you think too far ahead, and you try and start thinking other things instead of just worrying about taking the next wicket, this game can bite you pretty quickly.
"So, obviously it's a disappointing loss, but it's an experience for a young side, developing. We need to make sure that we learn from these sorts of things. And just how cut-throat cricket is at the highest level and how you need to be on your game, not for 70 overs, but for 100 overs."
Even though Trott said the team was not going to blame any individual or point fingers, what Afghanistan will probably rue the most is how they let a batter suffering from terrible cramps score the way he wanted to, and didn't do things differently to pose any challenges for him.
Even though their fast bowlers tried some change of pace and the spinners varied their lengths, a lot of the balls Maxwell hit out of the park had landed in his arc. For example, they did not bowl any wide yorkers to make Maxwell stretch far from his stumps, nor did they bowl much into his body to push him on the back foot, which could cause trouble for someone cramping.
"There's no pointing fingers, there's no blaming," Trott said. "I said to the team, as a bowler, is there anything you would have perhaps now done differently with regards to, in practice, developing a different delivery, would you have perhaps bowled different balls?
"As long as we learn from it and see how we can get better. But it is difficult to get over the fact that one player's got 200 and the rest of the team have got 80 probably. So that's a difficult thing to understand and the boys are hurting, and you'll be certainly wishing they could have it back."
"You give any world-class player two lives; he's going to hurt you. So for the players coming in and the players developing all around the game, it's not just about bowling in the nets. It's about practicing your fielding. Make sure your fielding is improving all the time. Because it's ended up costing us a game today, an important game. So that's a little thing everyone can learn from.
"When, unfortunately, the second catch went down, everyone just seemed to be waiting for Maxwell to get out. I didn't see a lot of encouragement or people cheering up each other and encouraging each other. It seemed like the attitude was a little bit, well, hopefully we'll still win. When you get an opportunity against a side like Australia, you've got to grab it. They're not going to just give it to you. And you've got to take it. If you get a chance to take it, you've got to take it. And that's the type of things we'll learn from today and what we just spoke about in the dressing-room."
Trott also said that even when the bowlers did certain things differently, Maxwell was just hitting the ball into the stands and on certain days like this you can't do much.
"I thought Cummins played well as well, so I'm sure there's maybe one or two things you could have done differently but that's cricket and there's always going to be things you want to have back. But he kept hitting them in the stands, so we can't put fielders in the stands. I wish we could have. But full credit to him, the way that he played to get a double-hundred is phenomenal. He deserved to win the game; he got a double-hundred."
Afghanistan are still placed sixth with eight points from as many games and one match to go, against South Africa later this week in Ahmedabad, Trott was confident that his team would be "resilient" enough to bounce back, just like they did after losing against New Zealand and India earlier in the tournament.
"We lost the New Zealand game pretty heavily and came back and won the next game," he said. "We lost the India game very heavily, came back and beat England - so yeah there is evidence of us coming back. No time to muck around, we've got to pick ourselves up and learn from the experience. And there's some great learning points for the guys going forward. But yeah, it's a bitter pill to swallow. It would really be nice just sitting here with 10 points. But hopefully that's after the South Africa game."

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo