AUSTRALIA TOUR OF INDIA, 2019
Cricbuzz Staff •
Marcus Stoinis nearly took his team through in Nagpur with a fighting half-century © AFP
Australia still had 21 runs to chase down in three overs with two wickets in hand. Marcus Stoinis, who had played a tremendous innings thus far after having found himself in the middle when Australia were in a spot of bother following the departure of Glenn Maxwell, was Australia’s only hope of pulling off the chase. He saw off Jasprit Bumrah’s last over, playing out five deliveries for no runs and took a single off the final ball to keep strike in the next.
The equation came down to 20 off the last two. A last-ball four off Mohammad Shami in the penultimate over left Australia requiring 11 off 6. Stoinis was on strike to Vijay Shankar with Australia hoping to level the series after India’s comfortable win in Hyderabad. However, Vijay’s strike off the first ball to trap Stoinis leg before was the game right there. He went on to bowl Zampa two balls later, with India snatching an eight-run win to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series on Tuesday (March 5).
The game would surely have been a bittersweet one for Stoinis, who shared vital partnerships at crucial junctures with Peter Handscomb and Alex Carey, and still ended up on the losing side. But without him on the day, Australia might not even have come close. While heaping praise on Stoinis, Australia vice-captain Pat Cummins also acknowledged the pain of coming so close and yet falling short.
“When Marcus is there, you always feel like we’re in for a chance,” said Cummins. “He’s been the closer [finisher] for us the last couple of years, played some unbelievable knocks and assesses the game really well. With him out there, I thought we were [in with] a massive chance. He played it beautifully, the way he just counted down the balls, chose the bowlers. To have 11 off the last over against probably their fifth bowler is a pretty good position from where we were. He set it up beautifully – just wasn’t his day… that last over.
“Everyone’s always hurting (after a loss). You always look back at a couple of balls you could have bowled differently or how you got out, or how you could have done something different. We’re all hurting, but I thought someone like Stoiny gave himself the best chance to win the game. The innings Petey and Alex played, if they didn’t play them the game would have been over 10 overs earlier. There’s lots of good things the guys can take out of today. It’s really, really disappointing to lose but all is not lost, there’s still three games to go.”
While Stoinis was the man standing tall until the end for Australia, India had Virat Kohli, who en route his 40th ODI century held India’s innings together. Before Kohli, India scored 0, and after him 2, in their total of 250. Kohli fell for 116 to Cummins, but on a difficult track, Kohli controlled his innings beautifully and steered India to a competitive total, which was the difference in the end.
“I think he was the difference, for sure. We had a couple of really good partnerships, Marcus got 50-odd, couple of guys got really good starts but we didn’t have that one guy who got on with it. We knew the longer the game went on, the harder it was going to be to score, so for them to have someone like Virat in at the end, facing lots of balls, he was probably the difference between them getting a low-200 or 250.
“It was a really good innings – chanceless. Just played really good shots. I think for the most part we bowled quite well to him, but especially the way he played some of the spin, which looked quite tough to play on that wicket, was certainly the difference.”
Stoinis’s effort aside, Australia and Aaron Finch, would be relieved – slightly – with the skipper getting some runs to his name after coming under scrutiny for his poor form with scores of 0, 8, 0 on this tour. He got Australia off to a strong start alongside Usman Khawaja as the opening pair added 83 runs before the skipper perished for 37.
Cummins praised his captain for his knock, before shedding light on the need to step up in the middle overs – an area that has been a cause for concern for Australia over the last couple of years. Today as well, runs dried up in phases following the fall of wickets, which turned out to be vital in the eventual run chase.
“Finch batted really well with Usman at the start there. Finchy, I thought, he played a beautiful innings today. You see how effective he is – once he gets going, the field goes back, the bowers start plan B and he’s one of those batsmen. I know bowling in domestic cricket against him, you do feel under pressure if he’s firing. He’s such a class player. His record is great in ODI cricket so runs were always going to come around the corner. Good innings today, I’m sure he’ll keep cashing in.
“Uzzie got another good start, but that middle order… I thought in the past couple of years we’ve talked about the middle overs and ticking over the run rate… It wasn’t an easy wicket out there to play spin, but the way some of the guys came in and turned over the strike was great,” Cummins added.
Finch, however, wasn’t as effusive. “Not enough,” said Finch post the game of his own innings. “Would have been good to get more; starts don’t win you games. We had many starts from our side and they had a century from their side.”
Cummins, however, looked at the positives that Australia could carry forward, given that they still have three games left in the series.
“Bowling a team out is good. I thought the way Zampa came back, got two big wickets that was a great sign. Nathan Lyon hadn’t played a lot of one-day cricket lately, to come back in it’s quite different from Test cricket, he seemed to be firing them in there and kept the scoreboard quite tight, so another great positive.
“We’re taking every single game deep. It comes down to a couple of overs, a couple of key moments which are the difference between winning and losing. That’s all you can do – try to put yourself in those positions. The more you’re in that the more you get used to it and kind of work out how you can do some things better. The feeling in the group is great, I feel like every time we walk on the field we’re a real shot of winning a game no matter what the circumstances,” he said.