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Match Analysis

When Maxwell went all Darth Vader against spin

The RCB batter was a class above on a slow pitch and his pyrotechnics had a direct line to the Royals collapse

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
14-May-2023
In the 10th over, Glenn Maxwell saw an opportunity to collect six runs.
Adam Zampa had gone flat and into the wicket, one which was slow and dry and hard to score on. In these conditions, the ball doesn't come onto the bat. Except this one did, much faster than the batter expected. Zampa's quick arm action and the revs he imparts - overspin instead of sidespin - often make it seem like he gains pace after pitching.
By the time a batter - one who's made the mistake of thinking there's a pull shot on - realises this, he doesn't really have the time to adjust.
You know that scene at the end in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story where everything goes black, the music stops and all you hear is extreme foreshadowing.
Swap the Rebels out. Stick the spinners in their place. Swap Darth Vader out, Stick Maxwell in his place.
Because only the Force explains how he still hit that ball for four. It helps that Star Wars never really committed to how the thing works. It even became a running joke, the most memorable line associated with it is Han Solo saying "that's not how the Force works."
In much the same way, it's hard to figure out how Maxwell works. You see him happen. He's right there in front of your eyes. And it still doesn't make sense. His genius sometimes suspends reality.
Like here, that original big backlift, horizontal bat shot turns - in no time at all - into something of a straight bat whip. Maxwell has the best hands in the business. If not for those, this wouldn't have been possible.
Because while other people might have made contact with the ball - it was by no means wicket-taking - very few would've been able to hit it to the boundary.
This is probably what the experts mean by having two shots to the same ball. Maxwell had the pull ready at first glance. Then he realised it wasn't quite on, and he still had a pretty good back up plan that fetched him four runs through wide long-on.
The chaos of the chase, where Rajasthan Royals lost six wickets in the first seven overs, were a consequence of this going from a 140-odd game to a 170-odd game. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson all fell to the first risk they took - because they had to. They were batting in the powerplay. That was the best time they had to score quickly. They had no choice.
Maxwell is the one who imposed that misery on them by playing the kind of innings that only he can play. Check this out. Every other batter in this match combined made 89 for 7 against spin at a run rate of 6.51. Then there's this one guy with 42 for 0 at a run rate of 10.9.
Maxwell is a natural against spin, but he doesn't just rest on that. He works every little advantage he gets. In the 17th over, he saw that three of the five fielders on the boundary were on the off side. That gave him an indication of the line Yuzvendra Chahal would be bowling. Long-on and midwicket were in place too, lying in wait for the mis-hit slog.
That left fine leg and square leg up. It was the only vulnerability in this system and Maxwell exploited it beautifully. A good portion of his big hits are the result of premeditation. But here he had to wait; he had to stay perfectly still until Chahal let the ball go. Then, when the spinner no longer had any control over proceedings, he moved across the crease and scooped a ball that was way outside off stump into the gap behind the wicket for six.
Maxwell once made a public moan about Suryakumar Yadav making the rest of them look bad. Here, he was catching up to that level. If indeed he had ever left it.
Since his IPL debut, way back in April 2012, only Chris Gayle (608) has hit more boundaries against spin than Maxwell (457). This is in all T20s.
In just the IPL, his strike rate against slow bowling - 164.59 - is the highest among all specialist batters to have faced at least 100 balls.
You'll notice the contrivance of that stat - "specialist batters" - because there is one man who has a higher strike rate. Sunil Narine with 194.79, because he's had the benefit of facing 627 balls fewer. If ever there was a cricket bat that matched the power of a lightsaber, its Maxwell's. And Royals felt the full brunt of it on Sunday evening.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo