Marcus Stoinis' unbeaten 146 is the 2nd-highest score by a No. 7 batsman in ODIs © Getty Images
Marcus Stoinis’ unbeaten 146 is the 2nd-highest score by a No. 7 batsman in ODIs © Getty Images

As strange as it may sound, but the last two instances of Australian cricket team showing the trait of ‘Australianism’ both occurred at Eden Park, Auckland. One would expect Australia to be barbaric like every other team in their backyard, but the Pool A match of 2015 World Cup between Australia and New Zealand, and the first game of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy 2016-17, showed the true nature of ‘Australianism’ — the very spirit to fight till  the end — has not gone extinct as feared earlier. Meek surrenders at Trent Bridge (Ashes 2015) and Hobart (2016-17) had underlined that Australian cricket had lost its most exclusive and special trait, but then, there are men like Mitchell Starc and Marcus Stoinis, who say this is not the case.

Starc was unplayable at Eden Park in the World Cup match, when Australia dug in deep to make lives miserable for New Zealand once Brendon McCullum got out. On that day, Starc looked like taking a wicket with almost every other delivery as the game progressed. While McCullum smashed 16 off his 8 balls, he conceded a mere 12 off the remaining 46 balls, taking 6 wickets. New Zealand eventually lost 9 wickets chasing 152. Starc handed ducks to three Kiwi batsmen, but could not go beyond Kane Williamson. Quite amusingly, on Monday, it was once again Williamson who made the difference. His run out of Josh Hazlewood sealed the game for his team; Stoinis was in no mood to let New Zealand get away with it.

Despite having enough runs on the board and needing just one wicket to win, it was not Stoinis who was seen agitated with the task at hand. Instead, the Kiwis kept scampering for several impromptu meetings in between overs and delivers, trying to stop Stoinis — the man who seem possessed.

Eden Park is one of the smallest cricket venues. Balls fly once they are off the bat. If you put some power in it you can be assured of clearing the ropes easily. But as Ricky Ponting defends batsmen when it comes to the question of their bats’ size and thickness, Stoinis not just cleared the ropes. The ball kept sailing into the stands.

Stoinis did not use the short boundary behind his wickets to get boundaries for which no one can set any field. In fact, Stoinis challenged New Zealand to a game which was played both with mind and power, with precision and calculation. He challenged New Zealand to show better mental prowess; it was one man against the team of eleven.

Stoinis dared New Zealand to bowl those lengths which would not give him room to swing his arms. Thankfully, the game was played at a venue with extremely short boundaries. At Melbourne Cricket Ground — yes, #YoMCGsobig — most of his strokes may not have made it to the ropes.

It was an open challenge. Stoinis backed himself to hit over long on and long off. He backed himself to get runs via boundaries and not putting Josh Hazlewood — his partner and the man with the best seat in the house — in front of any danger.

Stoinis took 78-from-42 to 33-at-a-run-a-ball, stunning Eden Park. So massive was his impact that the bewildered Kiwis could only bowl to where he wanted. Not even Tim Southee or Trent Boult was spared. Both men had a great time against Australia in that World Cup match two years back.

It is still very early in his career, but to see a player deciding the approach to the final outcome for his country in only his second match is more than surprising. It takes more than just a cricketing brain and match awareness to execute what Stoinis did. What it also takes is an unflinching self-belief and assurance, and complete trust on his skills acquired during formative years.

Stoinis’ may be rueing the fact of running those singles that ultimately turned out to be the difference between the two sides (6 runs). However, his emergence, even for an innings studded with 11 sixes (most by an Australian in a Trans-Tasman series) and a century at No. 7 showcase how well Australia are placed.

It also promises how well Stoinis can turn out to be for Australia, a cricketer with a vast experience of domestic circuit as well as IPL. As Australia build-up for the 2017 Champions Trophy and the subsequent World Cup three years from now, the arrival of Stoinis only adds more to their firepower.