Kagiso Rabada congratulates Marcus Stoinis. (Photo by Isuru Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Marcus Stoinis admitted that as “a Greek Australian, it was hard to keep cool” as Australia defeated South Africa by five wickets in a low-scoring opening Super 12 game at the Twenty20 World Cup on Saturday.
Chasing a modest 119 for victory, Australia were in trouble at 81-5 after Steve Smith, who scored 35, and Glenn Maxwell, who made 18, departed.
However, Stoinis, who made 24, stood firm and put on an unbeaten stand of 40 with the left-handed Matthew Wade, who scored 15.
Stoinis hit the winning boundary to take Australia over the line with two balls to spare.
“The main thing for me there was trying to stay as calm as I can and for a Greek Australian that’s pretty hard,” 32-year-old Stoinis said.
“You saw a bit of emotion come out towards the end, but the main thing is Wadey and I were just communicating, trying to sort out who was going to bowl each over and making a plan and then staying calm from there.”
Stoinis said the batting conditions on the notoriously slow pitches in the Gulf made it hard to pick up easy runs.
For a format renowned for its big-hitting, both sides managed just two sixes each.
“It’s what we expected to an extent but it was quite hard to get under the ball because it was skidding on quite a bit and wasn’t too quick,” added Stoinis.
‘On the fly’
“It’s one thing having a plan but you’ve also got to work things out on the fly while you are out there.
“We saw through the IPL (which was also played in the UAE) the scores weren’t as high as they have been in the past and that might be a trend that we see through the World Cup.”
South Africa fast bowler Anrich Nortje took two wickets including Australian skipper Aaron Finch, for nought, and Smith to return figures of 2-21.
Tabraiz Shamsi dismissed Maxwell as the batsman’s attempted reverse sweep ended with the ball crashing into the stumps.
Kagiso Rabada struck early to get David Warner trudging back to the pavilion for 14.
“The dugout was probably a bit more relaxed than I was,” said Finch.
“Stoinis and Wade kept their cool there. It’s what experience can do.”
Earlier, pace bowler Josh Hazlewood took 2-19 to help limit South Africa to 118-9 after the Aussies elected to bowl first.
Number four Aiden Markram played a lone hand with his 40 off 36 deliveries before falling to Mitchell Starc.
Markram kept losing partners with Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller departing for 13 and 16.
Leg spinner Adam Zampa struck twice in one over and a big mid-pitch mix-up led to Keshav Maharaj being run out for nought.
Rabada hit an unbeaten cameo of 19 off 23 balls to take the Proteas past 100.
Like Australia, the South Africans have never won the T20 World Cup.
Having gone into the tournament having controversially overlooked the experienced Faf du Plessis, that situation looks unlikely to change.
Also in their group are favourites England, defending champions West Indies, the rapidly-improving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
South Africa captain Temba Bavuma said his team should have been looking at at least 150 to defend.
“It was definitely not a par score – we really didn’t bat well barring Aiden,” he said.
“It definitely didn’t go to plan from a batting point of view but maybe anywhere near 150 or 160 would have been competitive.
“We went with the option of an extra batter expecting the wicket to be a good one but if you are selecting six batters with an all-rounder at seven and scoring 118 then I don’t think you can exactly blame the plan.
“From a batting point of view, we know that there was a lot we could have done differently and we will be looking to correct our wrongs in the next game.”