ICC World Cup 2023 – Glenn Maxwell – Australia ready for ‘a bit of unknown’ from relaid Lucknow surface

Australia are ready to embrace the unknown when they face South Africa in Lucknow on a newly relaid surface with Glenn Maxwell confident they have the adaptability for whatever conditions they come up against despite struggle to combat India’s spinners on a tough Chennai pitch.

The pitches at the Ekana International Cricket Stadium were dug up after IPL 2023, which followed the sacking of the curator in the wake of a low-scoring T20I between India and New Zealand in January. It means that some of the assumptions about the ground may not be reflected in the World Cup, although there remains an expectation that spin will play a key role.

“It’s a bit of an unknown here, think they’ve ripped up the whole ground and started again after the IPL,” Maxwell said. “India also had a T20 here where they struggled to chase down, I think, 99 against the Kiwis earlier in the year. With that in mind, I think it will be a fresh start for the whole ground, turn up on the day and see how it looks.

“We are prepared for whatever conditions come our way over the next few games. Suppose we are lucky to be in Lucknow for two games in a row, [so we] can have a look at these conditions.”

Maxwell termed the Chennai surface they encountered against India as an “anomaly” because the spin was inconsistent and then some deliveries would slide on, but he added they had expected conditions to be tough. He also said the ball became difficult to grip in the second innings because of the dew.

“You know when you come to India you will be faced with a whole heap of different conditions, whether it be flat wickets that don’t bounce or dry wickets that turn quite a bit,” he said. “We feel like we’ve been testing ourselves a fair bit in training, feel ready to face whatever challenge, we just came up against a very good bowling line-up the other day. Felt like we created enough chances with the ball.”

In the field, Maxwell was used ahead of Adam Zampa and finished as comfortably the more economical of Australia’s two spinners with Virat Kohli and KL Rahul largely playing carefully against him.

“Think with four fielders out and bowling to a lot of right-handers, I’m able to control the scoreboard a little easier,” he said. “Bit different with the left-handers on strike, so it has probably changed a bit in one-day cricket; bowling to a leftie you might have a better wicket opportunity but bowling to a right-hander you can shut down one side of the field and work ego to ego, see what they are trying to do and where they are trying to hit.”

Maxwell also came through the exertions without any flare-up to his previously broken leg that had caused some concern in the lead-up to the tournament and raised questions about whether he could manage the workload, particularly now he is a frontline spinner with Ashton Agar not making the final squad.

“A World Cup game you aren’t going to hold anything back,” he said. “Feel like I had been withholding a lot of the 100% stuff until this tournament started to make sure I didn’t flare anything up. It was nice to get the shackles off and run around.”

Marcus Stoinis, who has been a Lucknow Super Giants player in the IPL, could come into contention to face South Africa having not quite recovered from a hamstring injury to be available to face India. However, it would not be a straightforward call on how to fit him into the side, with the likely routes being in place of Cameron Green or at the expense of one of the frontline quicks.

Green laboured to 8 off 20 balls in Chennai and is averaging 16.16 in ODIs during 2023, but Stoinis has struggled with the bat in the format since the start of the 2019 World Cup, averaging 16.80 from 27 innings, although on occasions has proved effective as a new-ball bowler this year.

“He [Stoinis] was frustrated not being able to be out there for the first game,” Maxwell said. “He’s a big energy for our team and someone who is a matchwinner and someone you need in these types of tournaments.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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