Normally when a side is 54/5 and then 67/6 chasing 287, the story writers are usually quite comfortable in putting their copy together. Today was not one of those days, as one bloke decided he’d try and not just flip the script, but burn it and write a new one.
Marcus Stoinis might just have – given the circumstances – played the greatest ODI innings you’ll see, and certainly by someone you might never have heard of.
Coming to the wicket after Glenn Maxwell got bounced out by Lockie Ferguson, and soon losing debutant Sam Heazlett, the situation must have seemed dire. The 81-run stand with James Faulkner, with the asking rate climbing all the time seemed to be just prolonging the inevitable, but kept Australia in touch. Pat Cummins’ breezy 36 from 28 began to swing the pendulum back Australia’s way.
Then the fireworks started. Stoinis blitzed into the 90’s by clubbing three sixes off Jimmy Neesham, and then was given a life when dropped by Kane Williamson. With seven off the next over he pushed to 98, then had to watch as Mitchell Starc, perhaps feeling the pressure with the asking rate near 9 per over, holed out to deep mid-wicket.
With last man Josh Hazelwood joining him Stoinis’ plan quickly became clear when he turned down runs off Trent Boult; he was going to do this himself. His deserved century was brought up by dispatching Boult into the stand for 6, then carved the next over cover for another. The last ball was jabbed away for a single.
Next over was Southee. Dot ball, then six, four, six. Another dot then a scrambled single off the last ball when Williamson missed a close range shot at the stumps. Suddenly it was just 26 needed from 30. The crowd that was roaring earlier is now barely a whisper.
Could he really do it?
The Blackcaps are in shreds mentally. No one seems to remember what a yorker is. Every ball has a board meeting before it.
The 46th over, from Boult. Two runs off the first ball, more turned down off the next three, then a four crunched through midwicket. Last ball goes right through him, there’s a noise, an appeal that’s declined, and a review. Kumar Dharmasena takes what seems an age, but the ball has clipped pad and not bat. Not out. And crucially they’ve scampered through; Stoinis is 134 off of 111 balls, and the requirement is 19 from 24.
The 47th, from Southee. And finally the ball gets pitched up. Dots off the first three, then Stoinis manages to get hold of one and slice it over cover for 6.
Next ball Southee overpitches, and Stoinis slaps the low full-toss over long off. Surely the fairytale is about to become reality.
Then it’s all taken away. Stoinis digs a yorker out but only as far as Williamson at short midwicket and Hazlewood is caught backing up, confirmed out after a review.
The celebration is as much relief as anything else. The two Australians are crestfallen. Unbelievably Hazlewood hasn’t even faced a ball in his 26-minute stay, much less contributed a run in the 50-run stand. It’s also harsh to blame him, since he was only doing what was needed and that was to get to the other end.
146 not out off 117 balls and deservedly receives a standing ovation from the Eden Park, and the rarity of being named Man of the Match from the losing side.
No one else was really in contention for it were they?
A truly phenomenal innings.
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