The masterful opening that caught the sunrisers off guard

It was crunch time for the Delhi Capitals in the Dream XI IPL 2020 as it was their second bite at the cherry – The Qualifier 2. They faced a Sunrisers side that was high on confidence and morale after beating the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator. With the dew at Abu Dhabi likely to play a comparatively lesser impact than at Sharjah or Dubai, Delhi won the toss and had no second thoughts about batting first.

As the umpires walked on to the centre of the ground, there was a surprise waiting for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the form of a herculean Australian allrounder - Marcus Stoinis. The decision looked straightforward in the eyes of many, given Stoinis’ record at the top of the innings. But it was a move that involved a lot of behind the scenes work as Delhi were struggling against the Sunrisers having failed to take points off them in the previous two meetings in IPL 2020.

Let’s look at the different factors behind this move:

A pitch where capitalising the new ball was key :

The Abu Dhabi pitch was a delight to the opening batsmen as the new ball came nicely onto the bat before starting to stop a bit in the pitch as the game went on. Thus, an explosive start to the innings was the first step to ensuring a place in the finals. With Prithvi Shaw struggling for form, Delhi looked to their happy-go-lucky Aussie to provide them a platform which would eventually take them to that elusive score of high 170-180.

Here is Stoinis’ stats batting at different positions in the BBL :

Bat Name Innings Not Out 100s 50s Ducks HS Aggregate Average
1 24 4 1 7 2 147* 926 46.3
2 14 2 0 4 0 81* 486 40.5
4 1 0 0 0 0 2 2 2
5 11 3 0 1 1 99 243 30.38
6 3 2 0 0 0 18 40 40
7 3 1 0 0 0 15 34 17

The first and probably, the most important statistic in favour of Marcus Stoinis opening the innings !

A Sunrisers bowling attack that lacked raw pace :

A pace attack of Sandeep Sharma, Jason Holder and T Natarajan meant that the Sunrisers lacked the bowler who could trouble the opposition batsmen with their sheer pace apart from Natarajan who bowled in the early 140s kph. For a batsman who was adept at negating high speed and bounce in his hometown, the prospect of facing gentle medium pace in a batter friendly wicket during the initial overs was identified and executed well by the Delhi Capitals team. Once the swing on offer became close to nothing at the end of the first two overs, Stoinis put his foot down and attacked the bowlers. He scored 18 runs off Jason Holder in the 4th over that included 3 fours and a six.

Opposition Mode of Dismissal Runs
England Not Out 10
England C Bilings B M Wood 6
New Zealand Run Out 4
England C J Roy B A Rashid 0
Zimbabwe Not Out 1*
Pakistan C Asif Ali B Usman Shinwari 16
Zimbabwe Not Out 12*
Pakistan C F Zaman B M Amir 12
South Africa C Sub B A L Phehlukwayo 5
India Not Out 33
India C D Karthik B J Bumrah 4
India Not Out 25*
India Run Out 1
India B S Kaul 7
England Not Out 23*
England C D Malan B A Rashid 35
England C T Banton B T Curran 26
India Not Out 16*

The above table shows the different bowlers who dismissed Stoinis in T20Is between 31st August 2015 and 6th December 2020.

Runs Scored Not Outs Dismissals by Fast Bowlers Dismissals by Spinners Average
236 7 7 2 21.45

It’s seen that apart from bowlers who turn the ball away from Stoinis, his dismissals were by bowlers who generated ball swing and with speeds well above the 140s like Jasprit Bumrah, Mark Wood and Usman Shinwari.

Evading the marquee wicket-taker - Rashid Khan

Sunrisers looked to Rashid Khan as their primary wicket-taker once Bhuvneshwar Kumar got injured which eventually ruled him out of IPL 2020. Opening the innings would mean that Stoinis would have to face minimum number of balls from Rashid Khan. Also, if the Sunrisers leaked a lot of runs up front, they would be forced to bring Rashid on earlier than usual and this would in turn prevent him from bowling the crucial final overs. Although Rashid eventually dismissed Stoinis in the 9th over, the damage was done. The pair of Stoinis and Dhawan put 86 runs on the board in 8.2 overs (Marcus Stoinis – 38(27) SR – 140.74 with five 4s and one 6) for the opening partnership – a solid platform in a season-defining match for both the teams.

H2H of Rashid vs Stoinis in IPL (2017-2020)

Balls Faced Runs Scored Dismissals 0's 1's 2's 4's
21 24 3 5 12 2 2

And on top of that, Rashid's record against the Capitals is superb: across his five previous games against them, Rashid had taken 10 wickets for 72 runs in 20 overs.

Overall, it was a well calculated risk that was executed to the tee by Marcus Stoinis which eventually saw Delhi Capitals book their place in the finals of IPL 2020 against the defending champions - Mumbai Indians.