By David Gray
Glenn Maxwell’s promotion against Afghanistan denied Michael Clarke some much-needed batting time but the Australia captain insisted he took the right decision that eventually led to the team’s record-shattering 275-run victory on Wednesday.
Returning from a hamstring surgery, Clarke made his first appearance in the tournament in Australia’s third Pool A match against New Zealand on Saturday.
The 33-year-old right-hander’s time in the middle, however, did not last long as he was out for 12 as Australia was bowled out for 151 during the one-wicket defeat by their co-hosts.
Clarke naturally fancied some batting time against Afghanistan’s limited bowling resources but had to tweak his plan to make the most of the last 12 overs after David Warner and Steve Smith shared a 260-run stand to lay the platform for a massive total.
Free-scoring Maxwell justified his promotion to number four with a 39-ball 88 that helped Australia to a World Cup record total of 417 for six wickets and Afghanistan duly crumbled under the weight of the run mountain.
“We had an opportunity with about 11 overs to go, I decided to send Maxi in front of me,” Clarke said at the presentation ceremony after his team registered the biggest victory in World Cup history.
“We had an opportunity to try and break our World Cup record, get that highest score. We had a crack at that and the boys played really well.
“I was thinking of coming at number four. I would have liked to have a bat for my own individual form, to get some runs under my belt but I think it was best team decision.
“The way Maxi came out and played with other boys shows I did the right thing,” added Clarke.
After sharing the points with Bangladesh following a washout and going down narrowly to New Zealand in their last two matches, Australia rose to third in their pool.
Tournament debutants Afghanistan were not the strongest test of their skills but Clarke was happy with the improvement ahead of Sunday’s match against Sri Lanka.
“A very good win. The boys were outstanding with the bat,” Clarke said.
“David Warner was exceptional and the way boys played around him … Steve Smith, beautiful and Glenn Maxwell, unbelievable.
“I think everybody chipped in there and the way we bowled and fielded, we really set a good standard for us.
“Much improved from our game against New Zealand, which is a positive sign for us.”