At the start of 18th over in the Delhi Capitals innings, the scoreboard read 100/6. Marcus Stoinis was batting on four off the seven balls he had faced. Delhi were staring at a below par score on what was admittedly a two-paced pitch. Would they get to 130, perhaps push 140?

Well, Stoinis changed the game in the course of those three overs where he showed how dangerous he can be when he gets his timing right. With a sensational 21-ball-53 (seven 4s, three 6s), Stoinis lifted the Delhi Capitals to 157/8, which was a total that – eventually – proved match-winning.

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Incredibly, the Capitals scored 57 runs in the last three overs while Stoinis accounted for 49 of those (off just 14 deliveries). In the history of IPL, only Virat Kohli (vs Gujarat Lions, 2016) and Andre Russell (vs MI, 2019) have scored more runs in the last three overs of a batting innings; one freak all-time great innings and one freak all-rounder with incredible ball-striking skills is good company to keep for Stoinis.

Delhi Capitals innings:

Over No 1 to 17: 100 runs (5.89 runs per over)

Over No 18: 13 runs

Over No 19: 14 runs

Over No 20: 30 runs

Not long ago, Australia vice captain Pat Cummins – while reflecting on his side’s batting collapse in the first T20I against England – had said the team needs someone with the experience of MS Dhoni in finishing matches off. It was a backing of Stoinis’ abilities because, long touted as a finisher in the Australian batting line-up, he had not quite delivered consistently. His superb Big Bash League campaign last year came as an opener and his tendency to start slow in the middle order was seen even during his one-season stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore.

In that series opener against England, Australia looked to be cruising to a win before a flurry of wickets put the middle and lower order under pressure. While wickets fell around him, Stoinis was swinging and missing more than connecting. He took Australia within one strike of winning the match but could not hit a six off the last ball. His 23 off 18 was, on paper, was a decent innings but the only ball he hit cleanly was the only six of his innings when Australia needed at least a couple more.

And that swing-and-miss night in Southampton was probably what was on his mind when he said one can go from hero to villain in no time and when things go your way, you take it.

Fast forward a fortnight, and Stoinis struck the ball so sweetly that even the usually reliable Chris Jordan was made to look like a rookie bowler at the death. He manipulated the fielders perfectly to pick out the gaps as KL Rahul, as captain, struggled to get his game-plan right in the end. Pressure, it does funny things.

But more than just this match, Stoinis’ effort augurs well for Delhi Capitals in the context of the season.

The franchise had major middle-order issues last season. Over the course of the campaign, the only four batsmen to cross a tally of 200 runs were Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan. Colin Ingram was their best middle order batsman with 184 runs in 12 outings. Clearly, it was an area of concern and in the very first match of the 2020 campaign, the match-winner happened to bat at No 6.

“We had lost a couple of wickets and the plan was, we talked with Ricky, maybe targetting about 130. I get a total on the board that we can, sort of, defend with the ball And then get to the last two overs and see what happens,” Stoinis said in a chat with compatriot Alex Carey at the end of the match.

“We know what this game is like, we can go from hero to the villain pretty quickly. Obviously I played him (Jordan) in England and he bowled really well. Maybe it was just my night tonight. There was no plan to target him, just to have a crack in the last couple of overs.”

And, just like that, the game’s momentum had shifted.

Sure, he almost returned the favour to KXIP when he bowled the 20th over after conceding a six and a four off the first three balls. He was self-aware enough to see the lighter side of it at the end too, as he described the last over “funny” — given both Mayank Agarwal and Jordan were dismissed off low full tosses with two balls to go, he was right of course. But had one of them turned out the other way, the smiles might not have been as wide.

Like he said, it was just his night. In cricket, sometimes the intangibles simply take over.

Watch highlights of Stoinis’ innings below: