Marcus Stoinis. Name ring a bell? Congrats if it did. If not, we'll forgive you for not knowing the name of the man who almost single-handedly led Australia to an impossible victory in the first One Day International against New Zealand in Auckland.
This was ridiculous. An Australian win was never going to happen. It was never going to come even half close to happening. But it almost did. Almost.
Stoinis, a 27-year-old all-rounder playing just his second ODI, paced his innings beautifully. He came in at 5 for 64, at which point Australia really looked like they didn't want to be there.
At first he hung around and did what he could to add a little credibility to Australia's cause. And then, slowly, steadily, he unleashed a mighty fury. Nine fours. Eleven sixes. Such clean hitting. By far the best place to field if you wanted a catch was about 12 rows behind the fence.
Shortly after passing 100, Stoinis notched the highest score by an Australian batsman coming in at number seven in the order. He also, for the record, became the first Aussie to make a century and take three wickets in a One Day match, having taken 3-49 off ten overs earlier.
And then, having proven he could be as brutal to bowlers as Chris Lynn in a bad mood, Stoinis got smart. Wickets were falling at the other end, so Stoinis started farming the strike, protecting Josh Hazlewood from the strike.
It almost worked. It almost, almost worked. Stoinis got himself all the way to 146 not out off just 115 balls. Australia had always been behind the equation in this chase. Now, with three overs remaining, balls remaining were no longer a factor.
But Stoinis had to stay on strike. So on the last ball of the over, he knew he needed a single. Alas, the ball straight to Kiwi captain Kane Williamson -- who had cleverly placed himself right next to the pitch. Hazlewood was backing up, and was run out at the non-striker's end, unable to get back into his crease.
Hazlewood had been out there for 26 minutes without facing a ball, such was the mastery of Stoinis. But it was game over. Kiwis by six runs. Stoinis was named man of the match but it will be a hollow feeling.
THE ENDLESS SUMMER
This match started with such a different mood. You'll recall that we had already played New Zealand in a One Day series earlier this summer, in between the South Africa and Pakistan Test series, and that we absolutely walloped them 3-0.
So now we were back in New Zealand playing them (and losing to them) for, um, what reason exactly Well, it all goes back to a deal struck before New Zealand played the inaugural pink ball day-night Test in Adelaide last summer. Long story short, we committed to more Trans-Tasman tussles.
This seemingly endless spring, summer and autumn summer of international cricket in 2016/17 reads like this:
- Away One Day series in South Africa (which we lost 5-0)
- Home Test series against South Africa (which we lost 2-1)
- Home One Day series against NZ (which we won 3-0)
- Home Test series Against Pakistan (which we won 3-0)
- The current away One Day series against NZ (which we're going to lose unless we pick up our game)
And not forgetting there's about to be:
- A home T20 series against Sri Lanka, which will clash with
- An away Test series in India
The above date clash will of course mean that Australia's best T20 team will not be available for an international series. This is a problem because at least six of the Test team would be in our best T20 team (Warner, Smith, Khawaja, Wade, Starc, Hazlewood etc). And we wonder why Australia never performs well at the World T20.
Meanwhile, in between all that international cricket, we've had the Big Bash and assorted forms of state cricket. Bottom line: the cricket calendar is way too crowded. Cricket Australia knows this and has vowed to fix things in future. How exactly? Ah, nobody is quite across that yet.
At least this match got interesting towards the end, when it looked like