Marcus Stoinis has breathed life back into Australia’s T20 World Cup defence, hitting the fastest T20 international half-century by an Australian to take them over the line against Asia Cup winners Sri Lanka.
Arriving at the crease in the 13th over, Stoinis took the game to the Sri Lankan bowlers. In front of his home crowd, the proud Western Australian joined Aaron Finch in the middle of Optus Stadium. Needing to chase down 69 runs in 46 balls, he needed to deliver special innings.
Up next, was a performance for the ages.
Only facing 18 deliveries, the all-rounder smacked 59 runs that included four 4s and six 6s, enhancing his reputation as a power-hitter and a finisher in this Australian T20 team.
Speaking post-game to the host broadcaster after being awarded player of the match, Stoinis spoke of his mindset when he was walking to the crease knowing his team needed him to perform.
“I was actually quite nervous, to be honest, the intention was just to go put an impact on the game and probably provide a bit of energy for the boys and try and get a spark going,” Stoinis said post-match.
“In your head taking that first risk is always the hardest I think in all formats, but particularly in T20 when you usually have to take it a bit sooner than you want.
“It does help your confidence when you get one (six) away.”
Heading into the game, Sri Lanka was relying heavily on their spinners to limit the runs and make breakthroughs throughout the innings. The Australians, especially Stoinis, targeted the Sri Lankan tweakers heavily, especially Wanindu Hasaranga.
Hasaranga is currently ranked No. 3 in the T20I bowling rankings and is Sri Lanka’s best bowler. But, Stonis and the other Australian batters sent him all around Optus Stadium, conceding 53 runs at an economy rate of 17.70 off his three overs. His worst-ever figures in T20 internationals.
Historically not known as a great player of spin, Stoinis spoke about what has helped him become a better player against spin in different places in the batting order. He believes playing in different T20 domestic leagues across the world is the main factor, especially the IPL in India.
“The IPL has changed my cricket and helped me evolve,” he said.
“You come across a range of techniques and mentalities about how to play spin. It has helped me improve for sure.”
Marcus Stoinis’ innings weren’t the only shining light for the Aussies.
After a disappointing effort against the New Zealand batters, the Australian bowlers bounced back. During the power-play, the fast bowling trio of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, and Pat Cummins only conceded 36 runs in the opening six overs.
This was significantly better than their performance against New Zealand, where Finn Allen took them on in the first few overs. In particular, Hazlewood and Starc were very economical.
Ranked the No. 1 T20I bowler, Hazlewood again found his lines and lengths and proved difficult to get away, finishing with figures of 1-26 off four overs.
Not to be outdone by his teammate, Starc, who traditionally opens the bowling for Australia was held back till the fifth over but when he was thrown the ball took control. Only allowing six runs in his first two overs, he ended with 1-23 off four overs through the middle and death overs.
Coming into the squad for an ill-ridden Adam Zampa, Ashton Agar took full advantage of his opportunity as the primary spinner.
Bowling straight out of the power-play, he tightened the Sri Lankan batters conceding 25 runs in his spell of four overs.
“It’s really hard on Ash [Ashton Agar] because I think his economy rate in international T20 is like six and we’ve got Zamps [Adam Zampa] (who) does so well for us,” Stonis said post-match about his Aussie and state teammate.
“He’s a gun fielder, and he’s there with the bat, as well. He’s a great all-around package for us, and he provides good energy around the team. It’s almost just a shame he can’t play every game.”
His performance will create a difficult choice for the selectors going forward. Since losing against New Zealand, every game is a must-win to make the Semi-Finals.
The emphatic victory has allowed Australia to increase its net run rate and rise off the bottom of Group 1.
Australia’s next game will come against England at the MCG on Friday night.
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