Marcus Stoinis scores a century to help LSG win

Few people were shocked by Stoinis' brilliant performance in Chennai, as he displayed his Melbourne Stars form at No. 3 for LSG with an incredible undefeated century in a successful chase

(Football news) All around Chepauk, one could hear the shattering sound of a bat hitting the ball. At Marina Beach or Anna Salai, you may have even heard it. For in Chennai, a throng full to capacity became silent.

Outside the long-on boundary, into the silent stands, came a slider from Moeen Ali. That kind of power pleased Nicholas Pooran, an excellent six-hitter himself. The latest crowd favorite, Matheesha Pathirana, was flat-batted between extra-cover and mid-off, evoking an unsettling silence throughout Chepauk once more.

Of all the grounds in the IPL, Chepauk arguably has the noisiest crowd. Just ask Andre Russell, who had shut his ears when MS Dhoni walked out to the tune of Hukum from the Rajinikanth movie Jailer earlier this month. The Chennai crowd was at its loudest once again on Tuesday evening when their Thala was welcomed with another popular song: Nee singam thaan (You are a lion) from the Silambarasan starrer Pathu Thala. They went wild when Dhoni launched a mini-helicopter to finish Chennai Super Kings’ innings with a last ball-four off Stoinis.

A couple of hours later, however, Stoinis flipped the script and finished off a steep chase for Lucknow Super Giants, with Dhoni watching the ball disappear over short fine leg from behind the stumps.

The result didn’t look as likely when Deepak Chahar had knocked Quinton de Kock over for a duck in LSG’s pursuit of 211 on a two-paced Chepauk track. Even the new ball was coming slow off the pitch, which messed with de Kock’s timing and had him chopping on.

Before Tuesday’s game, LSG had the worst average (9.33) and strike rate (101.81) for No.3 batters in the IPL. So, the team management shook things up by bumping Stoinis up to No.3. With de Kock falling off the third ball of the chase, Stoinis was virtually opening the batting.

This was the first time that Stoinis was batting at No.3 or above for LSG in 34 innings in the IPL. He responded with an unbeaten 124 off 63 balls, the highest score in an IPL chase.

But Stoinis is no stranger to changing the order of battle. Since joining the Melbourne Stars in 2015–16, he has opened the batting for the team in 56 Big Bash League (BBL) innings. He is one of the league’s most productive top three batsmen.

In a 2020 IPL elimination game played in Abu Dhabi, Stoinis even started at first base for the Delhi Capitals. Prithvi Shaw was benched by DC for that particular game, and Stoinis took his position at the top, scoring 38 off 27 balls to help pave the way for DC’s victory.

After LSG beat CSK on Tuesday, their captain KL Rahul made sense of Stoinis’ promotion. “We wanted to be a lot more braver as a team,” Rahul said. “We had three games – a couple at home and one away from home – where we couldn’t get past 170 and we felt we needed to capitalise the powerplay. And we need one power-hitter in the top three. [If] the top three goes really hard and then you have Pooran at the back end and you have a couple of Indian players who can play around them and do the job of playing spin really well.”

When Stoinis opens the batting for the Stars, he usually prefers to take some time to suss out the conditions before kicking into higher gears. He followed a similar template against CSK: he was on 16 off 11 balls at one point, but in the final over of the powerplay, he took Shardul Thakur for back-to-back fours. Stoinis then zoomed to a 26-ball half-century and converted it into a 56-ball hundred.

CSK head coach Stephen Fleming wasn’t surprised one bit, having coached him at Stars in the BBL.

“Yeah, he’s got power but he’s also got really good batsmanship,” Fleming said. “In the Stars, we got him up to open the batting and he was quite prolific. So, I’ve seen it and I’ve seen the way he can control an innings and today he quietly went about his work. Today his fifty came off mid-20 balls and then he just controlled the innings and what more can you ask from your top three?

“They [LSG] needed someone to answer what Ruturaj [Gaikwad] did [108 off 60 balls]. And Stoinis did that beautifully. Not a surprise; we knew he’s a dangerous player and we knew we needed to get him out with Pooran and the other two [Rahul and de Kock] at the top. We got close but we couldn’t get the last one out.”

Once the dew set in later in the evening, the conditions became better for batting than what it was when CSK batted first. But there were also pockets in the chase where Stoinis had to sit back and leave the boundary-hitting to his partners. Stoinis, who had faced Pathirana just once before Tuesday, initially struggled to pick his action and release point, which is lower than Lasith Malinga’s. While Stoinis managed 15 off 12 balls against Pathirana, Deepak Hooda clattered him for 11 off five balls.

“It’s not just go, go, and go,” Stoinis said after winning the Player-of-the-Match award. “I guess it was ebb and flow the whole innings. There were some bowlers we wanted to target and some we played cautionary against. You always want to keep the balls and run rate in control, I guess. So, it was a really important innings that Nicky P played and [Deepak] Hooda’s innings because for a while I felt like I couldn’t hit a boundary.”

Ultimately, it came down to LSG requiring 17 runs from Mustafizur Rahman’s final over. The seamer from Bangladesh gave up his whippy cutter in favor of a yorker and kept missing his lengths. Whether there is dew or not, there is no room for error in the IPL, particularly when facing a powerful hitter like Stoinis. He finished with three balls remaining to cap off an incredible triumph for LSG with a 6,4,4 (nb),4.

Devdutt Padikkal is still suffering for form; against CSK, he managed just 13 runs off 19 balls. This makes a compelling argument for Stoinis to stay at No. 3 for LSG. He has, after all, excelled at the highest level for the Stars and has now defeated CSK in Chennai, along with their yellow army.

Also read: Sunil Narine says he will never return to International cricket


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