GLENN MAXWELL cashed in on a controversial reprieve to make a match-winning century as England started their Trans-Tasman T20 Series with a five-wicket defeat to Australia in Hobart.
Maxwell, having already been dropped by Alex Hales on 40, had another life on 59 when third umpire Chris Brown decided a stooping catch by Jason Roy was not taken cleanly - overturning the ‘soft’ on-field decision despite inconclusive replays.
The former Yorkshire all-rounder finished the game with a towering six to reach 103 not out in just 58 balls, though England’s downfall was caused at least as much by a dismal batting collapse which saw them go from 96-3 after 10 overs to an under-powered 155-9.
Dawid Malan top-scored for the tourists with a stylish 50 but lacked any solid support as wickets tumbled.
England, sent in to bat, hared out of the traps with a flurry of boundaries and treated Roy’s early exit as little more than a flesh wound.
Hales was dropped by Maxwell on five and rode his luck all the way to 22 but Malan looked imperious from the moment he arrived in the middle.
Most impressive was the way he laid into Billy Stanlake - man-of-the-match in the series opener against New Zealand.
His first delivery from the 6ft 8in quick was pinged through square leg for four, the third was stroked immaculately through cover and the next one sailed over the infield for six.
Stanlake never quite recovered and ended up nursing an economy rate north of 10-an-over.
But while Malan made light of deputising for the rested Joe Root, his team-mates floundered as Australia captain David Warner cycled through his seven different bowling options.
Most successful were spinners Ashton Agar and Maxwell, who took combined figures of 5-25 in five overs.
Eoin Morgan, Malan and David Willey all perished at Maxwell’s hand, the latter to a grim improvisation, with Agar coaxing return catches from Hales and Sam Billings.
The tail barely rallied save for Chris Jordan, who sent for a new bat to face the final ball of the innings and promptly clubbed Andrew Tye for six.
England needed a big start and when Warner clattered David Willey’s first ball back over his head, that seemed unlikely.
Yet, by the end of the over, the Yorkshire all-rounder had sent both Warner and Chris Lynn on their way. Warner was complicit, flicking to the waiting Hales at deep square, but Lynn lost his leg stump to a wonderful swinging delivery.
D’Arcy Short’s riposte was swift and effective: successive boundaries off Mark Wood then clearing the ropes square and straight from Willey and Tom Curran. Maxwell liked what he saw and followed suit, launching three sixes in the space of three balls.
At 74-2 after seven overs England needed inspiration from somewhere. Instead, when Maxwell clipped Curran to the ropes on 40, Hales fumbled the catch.
Adil Rashid’s sharp return catch did for Short (30) and Wood drew a miscue from Marcus Stoinis but the game now hinged on the fluent Maxwell.
Rashid and Roy thought they had him when the latter stooped to claim a low catch at long-off but -
despite replays offering no certainty - Brown opted to reverse Gerard Abood’s instincts.
From there on Maxwell never let England back in, pounding Wood for the winning six and bringing up his ton in one swing of the bat, leaving nine balls unused.