“Keeping in mind the upcoming Cricket World Cup, it is best for Stoinis to keep the past behind and take the next ODI as a fresh beginning and do everything to bag that World Cup berth in the team”

Shami to Lyon, a full toss and the Aussie pulls it across the line, gets a thick inside edge that clears the fine leg boundary.

The four on the final ball of the 49th over meant Australia needed 11 runs off the final over and their well-set batsman Marcus Stoinis was on the strike.

Going two years back, Stoinis announced himself in the international arena with his unbeaten knock of 146 from 117 balls. When Stoinis walked in, Australia were struggling at 54 for 5 and the match was more or less over for the Men in Yellow as the target was a distant 287.

However, in just his second ODI for Australia, Stoinis almost single-handed dragged his side to a rare victory. In his stunning knock, he hammered 11 sixes and nine fours before Kane Williamson ran Josh Hazlewood out and Stoinis ended up being Australia’s hero in a six-run loss at Auckland.

Also read: Australia’s struggles with the bat in ODI cricket

Two years and 24 ODIs later, Stoinis’ fate has remained the same. On Tuesday, in the second ODI against India, Stoinis did play a calculated knock but once again failed to take Australia over the line.

The joy of having Stoinis on the strike for the final over short-lived for the visiting camp as Vijay Shankar trapped him Leg Before Wicket on the very first ball of the 50th over. Australia lost the match by eight runs. It was a close affair and had Stoinis batted till the end, the result could have gone the other way.

It was a bittersweet match for the all-rounder. He bowled just one over, took the important catch that got the centurion Virat Kohli out but all he was going to remember was his unsuccessful attempt with the bat. Stoinis played with a brave approach in the end as he played out five deliveries off the Jasprit Bumrah over for no runs before he took a single to the keep strike. He had to protect Nathan Lyon from Bumrah’s 140-plus KMPH balls and that’s what he did.

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When he came out to bat in Australia’s chase of 251, he began slowly but eventually caught up and ended up being the most vital batsman for his side. He shared crucial partnerships with Peter Handscomb and Alex Carey but, the entire responsibility was thrown on him to finish the game as wickets kept falling on the other end.

Acknowledging Stoinis’ knock and pain of losing the match after such a tremendous effort, Aussie vice-captain Pat Cummins said, “When Marcus is there, you always feel like we’re in for a chance. 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.”

Following Stoinis’ maiden ODI ton, that came in the famous losing cause in Auckland in 2017, Australia have not won a match in which Stoinis has scored a 50-plus score and there have been seven of them, including Nagpur’s 52 off 65.

While India achieved their 500th ODI win on Tuesday, Stoinis found himself in an unfortunate club of Australian cricketers. Having appeared in 26 one-dayers for his country, Stoinis is now 17th on the list of the Australians with the most 50+ scores in ODI losses, tied with Geoff Marsh, Mark Taylor and Graeme Wood. Marsh and Taylor both played more than 100 ODIs, while Wood featured 83 times.

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It is fair to say, Australia have not found another reliable finisher in the 50-over format since the legendary Michael Bevan. The numbers spoke for the man. But the fact that he pulled Australia from the wire to win them a match on several occasions is what made him a big deal for the Aussies in the white-ball game. He was not out for as many as 67 times in the 196 innings he had batted. His average of 50-plus was the testimony to the fact that he was one of their best in the middle-order.

Bevan’s majority of winning knocks came while batting at No. 6, where he remained not out for as many as 34 times. Out of which, his 12 unbeaten knocks came during a chase and Australia won 10 games out of those. Bevan’s next favourite position was at No. 4, where he ended up being not out for 15 times. Australia did a tad better when their ‘finisher’ batted at No. 4 – the team won 10 out of the 11 times when Bevan remained unbeaten during a chase.

Ever since Bevan retired, there were several batsmen who have shown the potential of being Australia’s next finisher but none of them were consistent enough to bring in the positive results. The five-time World Cup winning nation has produced several classic middle-order batsmen like Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds to name a few. While there was never a doubt about how good they were in the middle, even they did not match Bevan’s nerves and capability as a finisher.

In the recent times came the likes of James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell, who finished thrillers for Australia, But, their inconsistency has eluded the team of a proper finisher, which is so important these days as quite a few matches go till the wire and every team would love to have that one player who can fight the pressure and finish the games.

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However, there has been one batsman whose average and finishing skills have been on par with Aussie legend Bevan. Unfortunately for the Australians, the player does not belong to their country – MS Dhoni – the former Indian captain, who averages 50.84 has been easily the best finisher in recent times. Even though he has not been in the best of his forms of late, thanks to his respectable image of finishing the games for India, Dhoni would be the vital member of India’s upcoming World Cup squad.

This could be taken as a lesson for the young players of the current generation. The bar for selection keeps getting higher with every game and having special characteristics will only strengthen a player’s chances of making the cut of their national cricket team. When Australia have begun to show the faith in Stoinis, the Western Australian must justify the same.

“Just a bit of an empty feeling coming to the end of the game,” Stoinis said after failing to finish the second ODI against India.

Keeping in mind the upcoming Cricket World Cup, it is best for Stoinis to keep the past behind and take the next ODI as a fresh beginning and do everything to bag that World Cup berth in the team. Australian legends like Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden have backed Stoinis’ talent as an all-rounder. So, it should be a matter of time when he’ll win Australia a match and there will be no looking back from there.

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