For many, needing more than two runs a ball to snatch a remarkable T20 World Cup semi-final victory against Pakistan would be too much. But for Marcus Stoinis, it was something he was ready to do.
There’s no denying the pressure that was on Stoinis and Matthew Wade as they attempted to take the game deep with faint hopes of victory quickly fading from Australia’s grasp. But at 5-98, the pair were simple with their dialogue.
“We had some good banter out there, he’s a funny bloke,” Stoinis said.
“We were talking about how there was one shorter boundary and one longer side, and certain bowlers we felt we could target, but in between, there’s the chaos going inside your own head.”
“You’re just trying to stay calm and keep each other calm so you can make sure you’re clear on what you want to do.”
For Stoinis himself, it was a “full circle” moment. Having gone between being a rising star all-rounder and finisher for his country to being left out of national limited-overs squads after a disappointing 2019 one-day World Cup in England, the Melbourne Stars player found himself back in the Aussie fold in a high-pressure tournament.
His thought processes, despite the external noise around him, was simple; if the Pakistani spinners in Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim over-pitched, then Stoinis looked to hit straight down the ground. If they dropped short, he was intent on pulling over the mid-wicket boundary. But if they happened to find the neutral spot in between, he was content on knocking a single. It all sounds like a complex theory, but for Stoinis, it was a behaviour he had learnt through his T20 experiences.
“You draw on your past experiences, something that’s lucky for me is I’ve played a lot of T20 cricket and I’ve developed that scar tissue,” he said.
“I’ve failed in a lot of situations, I’ve been told I can’t finish a game, and I think you need to go through that stuff to go and stand in the middle in a pressure situation.”
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“It doesn’t mean it’s always going to work, but I’ve noticed the way I do think through those situations has grown over the past couple of years.”
In his jocular way, Stoinis was able to reflect and admit that the hectic final overs of Australia’s run chase was “tense” and “happened so quickly”. When thinking back to the key parts of the game, the all-rounder credits good friend Adam Zampa for his economical bowling effort, saying he was “brilliant” and “took complete control of his four overs”. But his deepest ruminations came when he realised how important it was that both he and Wade, who has also gone through his own struggle to return to the Australian side, were standing together unbeaten when they hit the winning runs.
“I was wondering how long it would take to come back into the side, we do joke with Wadey that we were out of the team and then batting together at the World Cup, we’ve almost done a full circle there,” Stoinis said.
“I did believe I was coming back, but you don’t know how long you’ll have to sit on the sideline for.”
Previously thought of as a form of cricket with less value than test matches and one-day internationals, T20 cricket has continued to expand, with most cricket playing nations now treating it seriously. Although the current crop of T20 stars, including Stoinis, didn’t grow up idolising the format, the Aussie all-rounder now believes a green and gold victory at this T20 World Cup would be crucial to the nation going forward.
“Obviously test cricket and the Ashes are what we grew up wanting to play, but then the transformation of T20 cricket came – it’s not hit and giggle anymore,” Stoinis said.
“For the Australian team, I don’t reckon many gave us a chance leading into this tournament other than the players and coaches, so it’ll mean a bloody lot to us and we’ll be super proud if we bring that World Cup home for Australia.”
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