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Stoinis' dream knock soured at the finish

Marcus Stoinis played the innings of his dreams at Eden Park - only to have reality bite him hard with the closing run-out of Josh Hazlewood, to ensure Australia fell narrowly short of the most unlikely of pursuits.

There were decidedly mixed emotions in Stoinis' voice as the 27-year-old spoke of his unbeaten 146 that took the visitors to within seven runs of victory. Satisfaction, sure, at stamping himself as an international cricketer of character and power, as well as a much improved allrounder as shown by his three wickets earlier in the day; but it will take some time before the pain of that final run-out, and a dash for the win thwarted, subsides.

"If you look at the stat book after making 140-odd and taking three-for it doesn't feel that good," Stoinis said in Auckland. "It just shows how much of a team game cricket is and how important winning is to everyone. I'm happy to an extent but probably not what I would imagine.

"As an all-round game, it's what you dream of and think about when you close your eyes before the game. I've had smoother innings than this but this is a different kind of pressure. To put the performance on the board feels good."

Stoinis first turned out for Australia in an ODI in England after the 2015 Ashes series, and was left with a couple of clear goals for improvement. The first was to strengthen his bowling, and he has done so in adding a little more pace and a lot more consistency, as Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro found out. But he also needed to bring more adaptability to a batting game that had looked impressively correct but also rigid.

"I think my bowling had to improve to move into that allrounder's position," he said. "In state cricket, I probably bat a bit higher, but it's a different mould of position if you're going to be batting at six, seven or whatever it is. Mostly just thinking about what's happening in the situations you're in and understanding the game. On the bowling side of things, [it's] just consistency really."

Even with that progress in his mind, winning seemed the remotest of possibilities when Stoinis walked out to join Sam Heazlett at 54 for 5, and grew less plausible still when the debutant was dismissed. However he kept his cool, and talked through the situation with the experienced James Faulkner.

"When Jimmy [Faulkner] came out, I was thinking 'ok, you've got to give yourself a chance here, so first thing's first, have a look around, get yourself moving'," Stoinis said. "Then once he got to about 15 or so, we spoke and made a little plan there as to the way we'd go about it. When you come up with a plan, everything is more simple even though it seems a long way away. So it was all thought out.

"[The plan was] pace myself but then target a certain bowler and the end with the wind was the main thing for me. Then there were a couple of overs before they put five out on the boundary where I thought it might be time to have a crack. Also, once you've faced 100 balls it does get a bit easier, so the more wickets we lost, the more I thought it was my turn to score the runs."

Later in the innings, Stoinis appeared to occupy the "zone" famously spoken of by many elite athletes where they are simply doing and not thinking. The spell was only broken when last man Hazlewood hared down the wicket when Stoinis bunted a yorker back down the ground, allowing Kane Williamson to underarm the stumps down.

"There's too much going on for the nerves by that time, you know," Stoinis said. "Some of our most experienced players, they might be bowlers but the way they think about the game is as good as it gets. Josh Hazlewood and [Mitchell] Starcy were good at calming the nerves.

"[With Hazlewood] the plan was for me to face the first four or five and then get a single last ball. But at the end there, the plan was to try to hit a six and get a draw and then leave Josh to get a single to win the game."