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Match Analysis

Stoinis is LSG's man for all surfaces, one hand at a time

On Tuesday, Stoinis muscled LSG to an elusive home win with a takedown of Mumbai's fast bowlers

Deivarayan Muthu
The Ekana Stadium didn't roll out the black-soil turner for the final league game in Lucknow this IPL, but the red-soil one was just as difficult for all batters - except Marcus Stoinis.
He was the only one to strike at over 170 on that track, his expertly-paced unbeaten 89 off 47 balls being the difference on Tuesday. Like most other batters on the day, Stoinis had started slowly, scoring 35 off his first 29 balls, but cranked up to top gear to smash 54 off his last 18.
This was Stoinis' best IPL score. This is already Stoinis' best IPL season in terms of both runs (368) and strike rate (151.44). Before this game, a large chunk of Stoinis' runs had come away from Lucknow on better batting tracks. Lucknow Super Giants might have been tempted to bump him up to the top, where he has been successful for Melbourne Stars in the BBL, once they decided to bench Kyle Mayers for their last home fixture. Instead, LSG promoted Deepak Hooda to open with Quinton de Kock and backed Stoinis' muscle in the middle order.
Stoinis channelled all of that power in the 18th over, bowled by Chris Jordan. He went 6, 4, 4, 6, 4. The first ball was a 144kph length ball on the stumps that disappeared beyond the bigger long-on boundary. It brought up Stoinis' half-century and had LSG's mentor Gautam Gambhir on his feet, applauding the landmark. Jordan then took pace off the ball, but Stoinis still picked away him for fours on either side of the wicket. Then Jordan marginally missed the yorker and bowled a low full toss. It was still a hard-to-hit delivery, but Stoinis extended his arms and launched another six over the long-on fence. Jordan was left scratching his head in utter disbelief.
But this sequence wasn't particularly special because Stoinis always dominates Jordan in T20 cricket. Overall, Stoinis has taken Jordan for 151 runs off just 61 balls at a strike rate of almost 250 without being dismissed in T20s. However, the one-handed sixes off both Jason Behrendorff and Akash Madhwal in the 19th and 20th overs were truly remarkable.
Both Behrendorff and Stoinis play for Western Australia in domestic cricket. The left-armer knows that Stoinis relishes pace on the ball, so he denied him pace and pushed a dipping yorker away from his swinging range. Stoinis got beaten by the change-up, and his bottom hand flew off the bat on impact, but he still manufactured enough power and elevation with one hand to clear long-off. Madhwal then just missed his middle-stump yorker on the final ball of the innings, but Stoinis created swinging room and enough power with just one hand again to clear long-off.
The yorker is arguably the bowler's best delivery in T20 cricket, but Stoinis' swing is so powerful that he can hit sixes off that length with just one hand on a used pitch. Kieron Pollard, who used to do this often on the field, was helplessly watching all the carnage unfold from Mumbai's dugout.
Tom Moody, the former Australia allrounder and an analyst at ESPNcricinfo, tried to make sense of Stoinis' one-handed bombs.
"It's been done with the pace of the delivery, so therefore he gives his bottom hand away, but still the velocity of the swing coming down through the arc and he just extends the swing through with the top hand in control of the striking of the ball," Moody said on ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time:Out. "It takes strength, it takes balance and control because you still have to have your head in a strong position. If you throw your head back from that position, the ball is going nowhere. It's a case of he's been done [in] there, but he just extends that top hand through the ball to make sure he gets maximum contact."
That ability to hold his shape and use his reach has also helped him get on top of spinners this IPL. It was on display against Mumbai Indians again, with punchy sixes off Hrithik Shokeen and Piyush Chawla soon after the powerplay. With LSG currently third, this skill could also prove useful in spin-friendly Chennai for the playoffs. Throw in the pace dominance, and Stoinis has proved to be a man for all surfaces this season.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo