Stoinis bolts into Ashes contention

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    On Australia’s last ODI tour of India a standout series performance vaulted George Bailey into the 2013 Ashes series despite his poor first-class form. Could that be an omen for man-of-the-moment Marcus Stoinis?

    Stoinis has been a revelation in ODIs this year, averaging 86 with the bat and regularly playing vital innings in the middle order in the wake of batting collapses. The 28-year-old all-rounder was among Australia’s best three players in this just-completed ODI series in India – his first in Asia.

    Four years ago, Bailey was Australia’s shining light in India, making 475 runs at 96, an effort which earned him an unexpected Ashes berth just weeks later.

    It was unexpected because Bailey was coming off a horrendous Shield campaign in which he averaged just 18 with the bat. But Bailey’s dominance in India, combined with good efforts in the Shield campaigns prior to that poor season, was enough to sway the selectors.

    Stoinis is in a similar position as he too is fresh from a woeful Shield season in which he averaged only 18 with the bat. There is another parallel with Bailey in that Stoinis also had several seasons of good performances prior to the bad season – Stoinis made nearly 1800 runs at 44 across the previous three Shield campaigns.

    To head off those Roarers itching for an argument, I’m not advocating Stoinis play in the Ashes, rather predicting that he could well be a bolter based on the past choices of Australia’s selection panel.

    There are several factors working in Stoinis’ advantage. Firstly, the Australian selectors like to have a fifth bowling option at number six in the Test team and will be especially keen on this because of England’s very deep batting line-up. That all but rules out the claims to the number six spot of specialist batsmen such as Shaun Marsh, Joe Burns or Kurtis Patterson.

    Secondly, on hard home pitches the selectors prefer for that all-rounder to bowl pace not spin, which greatly weakens the appeal of incumbent number six Glenn Maxwell and rising ODI star Travis Head.

    Thirdly, the only other likely Test candidates who are seam bowling all-rounders – Mitch Marsh and Hilton Cartwright – would probably have significant drawbacks in the eyes of the selectors.

    Fresh back from injury, Marsh is currently playing as a batsman for WA and is not expected to start bowling again until the Big Bash League, which starts nearly a month after the first Ashes Test.

    Cartwright, meanwhile, is in the same boat as Maxwell in that his bowling appears not to have the confidence of captain Steve Smith. Smith did not offer Cartwright a single over in his two ODIs and gave him just nine overs across his two Tests.

    The 25-year-old from WA is not really an all-rounder – he is a quality top-order batsman who also happens to roll his arm over.

    So, if Australia want a batting all-rounder who bowls pace well, Stoinis is the most obvious candidate. The fourth factor that plays into Stoinis’ hands is that there will be three rounds of the Sheffield Shield before Australia are expected to announce their Ashes squad.

    Marcus Stoinis of Australia celebrates

    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    This gives him enough time to erase the selector’s memories of his poor 2016-17 Shield campaign.

    Should Stoinis come out and dominate with the blade, while the likes of Maxwell and Cartwright underwhelm, don’t be surprised to see him leapfrog that pair into the Ashes line-up.

    Putting aside Stoinis’s Test prospects, there is no doubt he has quickly become a fixture of Australia’s ODI team. Very few players have come into the Australian ODI side and immediately looked as comfortable as Stoinis. In his eight ODI innings, six times he has batted well.

    On four occasions he has arrived at the crease with Australia in a mess and guided them away from trouble.

    Two other times Stoinis has played a nice unbeaten cameo in the death overs. Only twice in eight knocks has he failed. Stoinis has proved himself to be exactly the kind of versatile middle order ODI batsman Australia desperately need, someone equally capable of putting out fires or setting the pitch ablaze.

    Yesterday it was the latter which was required of him after Australia lost 3-18. Consolidation was needed and that was just what Stoinis provided as he compiled a patient knock of 46 from 63 deliveries on a slow, dry pitch perfectly suited to India’s fine spinners.

    Stoinis has swiftly become a key member of Australia’s batting line-up because of its propensity for middle order collapses. Australia lost 6-63 in the second match of this series, 5-51 in the third ODI, 3-5 in the fourth match and then 3-18 yesterday.

    This has exposed Australia’s over-reliance on Smith to play the anchor role in ODIs. With Smith struggling (142 runs at 28 this series), Australia have looked rudderless at times.

    Their total of 9-242 batting first yesterday was at least 50 to 60 runs short of a competitive total against an Indian side which is brilliant at chasing. India cruised to a 4-1 series victory, continuing Australia’s run of poor ODI efforts away from home.

    Realistically, though, this tour quickly will be forgotten as Australia turn their attention to the Ashes, a series Stoinis is suddenly an outside chance of playing in.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (110)

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 5:07am
      Brasstax said | October 2nd 2017 @ 5:07am | ! Report

      Mitchell Marsh playing as a batsman for WA. Tells me all I need to know about the quality of domestic cricket.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 9:01am
        Matth said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        And scored 47 not out

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 9:01am
        qwetzen said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        47 not in the BLT sandwich yesterday. He’s also captain and has 2 wins from 2 games. NSW & Vic at that.

      • Columnist

        October 2nd 2017 @ 9:15am
        Ronan O'Connell said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Brasstax that is a fair comment regarding Shield cricket, given Mitch Marsh’s limited output with the bat in recent Shield matches, but in 50-over cricket MMarsh is well worth a spot as a specialist bat for WA.

        Meanwhile, Shaun Marsh is in raging hot form, his last 4 knocks – 88, 132no, 78, 125no. The first two were in the current JLT Cup and the previous two were in county cricket last month.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 9:47am
          Don Freo said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          It is not “fair comnent” at all.

          Brasstax declares his ignorance of domestic cricket…”Tells me all I need to know”… yet makes a comnent about Australian selection, not knowing domestic cricket.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 1:32pm
          jammel said | October 2nd 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          Ronan – do you think S Marsh is a chance for the Ashes if that form continues? Maybe Handscomb at 6 and S Marsh at 5?

          • Columnist

            October 2nd 2017 @ 6:11pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

            jammel I don’t think SMarsh (or any specialist batsman) is a chance to bat at 6 for the 1st Ashes Test because, apart from a brief period when Maddinson was in the side last summer, the selectors have always picked an all-rounder in the top 6 for years now.

            The selectors will want a 5th bowler because of a) England’s really long batting lineup b) The fact that Starc and Hazlewood will coming back from injury

          • Roar Guru

            October 3rd 2017 @ 8:34am
            Chris Kettlewell said | October 3rd 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

            I’d say S Marsh’s only real chance of playing is if Handscomb ends up keeping for Vic in their shield games, does a good job with both gloves and bat and the selectors decide that he’s now the option as keeper, thus freeing up an extra batting spot.

            I can’t see that happening. If Marsh keeps scoring runs he puts pressure on the likes of Khawaja and Renshaw to score runs in those first couple of tests. Being the Ashes, and a 5 test series, if either of those two completely failed in those first two tests, while Marsh was piling up runs in the SS, there would be the potential for the selectors to go for Marsh. But that would also likely require one or two losses in those games making the last three almost must-win games. If either of those two had bad matches but Australia were still 2-0 up they’d likely get more chances.

    • Columnist

      October 2nd 2017 @ 5:19am
      Ronan O'Connell said | October 2nd 2017 @ 5:19am | ! Report

      Most important line of the article:

      “I’m not advocating Stoinis play in the Ashes, rather predicting that he could well be a bolter based on the past choices of Australia’s selection panel.”

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 9:03am
        Matth said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        So who are you advocating? I want Maxwell to have first bite over Cartwright and Stoinis, but I think there’s not much between them

        • Columnist

          October 2nd 2017 @ 9:11am
          Ronan O'Connell said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

          After averaging 37 across his four Tests in Asia, I think Maxwell deserves an opportunity to play his first Test in Australia. Cartwright is a really strong second option.

          But a lot can change in 3 rounds of the Shield. Maxwell looked in poor nick in India and if he flops in his 5-6 innings in the Shield, and Cartwright dominates, that would alter the landscape.

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 1:13pm
            Nudge said | October 2nd 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

            I actually reckon the selectors might well be done with Maxwell’s brain explosions for now. That dismissal in the 3rd one dayer was as dumb as it gets. A 3rd grade amateur player would have been drilled by the coach for that. Surely it’s time for him to pull his head in, forget his “funny” interviews he does of other players, because you look like a dunce when you don’t perform. He’s to much of a risk for an ashes series. I’d be looking at Cartwright but as Ronan has said above the 3 shield games prior to selection will determine that. I’d say selectors would love to pick either Stoinis or Cartwright but if neither score big runs in the lead in shield games it will be to tough to pick them. The options probably are Stoinis, Cartwright, Maxwell, Patterson and Shaun Marsh.

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 7:04am
      Mike Dugg said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      He’s a better bowler than Cartwright and arguably Maxwell. Smith doesn’t trust all rounders and part timers though

    • Roar Guru

      October 2nd 2017 @ 8:58am
      Ryan H said | October 2nd 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Well it’s definitely possible given the track record – Bailey immediately came to my mind also.
      I would hope common sense prevails and Stoinis is required to put together a big Shield season first. If he can recapture his form from 2-3 season ago, I’d give him every chance. However last season he struggled big time; a highest score of 46 whilst averaging 17.90. It’d be crazy to hand him a test place now, unless he outrageously dominates the first three Shield rounds. That said, I’m pretty sure Bailey only averaged around 22-23 in the FC season prior to his test selection.

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 9:40am
      Simoc said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      I’m hoping Maxwell comes good. He has the ability but not the brain to go with it at this stage. The Indians sussed him out in ODI and he didn’t respond well enough. On the other side we see Warner is able to play long slow innings test now as Maxwell can do. He really needs to score big before the Ashes as I think we can only see him as a batsman playing for the same position as Handscomb.

    • Roar Guru

      October 2nd 2017 @ 10:01am
      Rellum said | October 2nd 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      That line of thinking was why I thought they may have put Finch in the Test team a few years ago. They didn’t do that then, maybe because of an ill-timed drop in form, so I don’t think they will this time. There seems to be a clear idea from them of Maxi or Cartwright.

      • Columnist

        October 2nd 2017 @ 6:20pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

        “There seems to be a clear idea from them of Maxi or Cartwright.”

        I agree Rellum but the wildcard this summer is the fact there are 3 Shield games before the squad is selected.

        We’ve seen the selectors can be heavily swayed by recency bias – if Maxwell and Cartwright come out and make say 150 runs at 25 from six innings, and Stoinis cracks 300 runs at 60 with a pair of impressive tons, everything could change.

        • Roar Guru

          October 2nd 2017 @ 7:18pm
          Rellum said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

          I respectfully disagree with that us not playing a batsmen a 6 recently. Maxi is being played as a specialist batsmen, he barley bowls so that is 6 specialists for a good while now. Apart from the last couple of outings for M.Marsh in India we have played 6 batsmen since Hobart.

          • Columnist

            October 2nd 2017 @ 7:27pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

            Rellum the way I would look at that is that while Maxwell’s bowling hasn’t been used much… a) He can bowl if needed b) The selectors may have picked Maxwell as an all-rounder only for Smith to all but refuse to bowl him.

            I’m not sure the selectors picked Maxwell in India with the idea that he would not bowl at all, my gut feel is that his bowling ability would have helped him get selected in those conditions. But then it’s up to Smith as to how he uses his players.

            • Roar Guru

              October 2nd 2017 @ 9:03pm
              Rellum said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

              I get your point but I don’t think Smith is as autonomous as you make him out to be. That sort of captain is a thing of the past. They would have their plans from video and data about who to bowl to whom, and when. Smith would have freedom to tweak that based on how someone is bowling or the conditions but for Maxi to bowl so few overs over so many games against different teams to me shows they plan for him not to bowl, apart from some old school AB style part time overs.

              • Columnist

                October 2nd 2017 @ 9:33pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | October 2nd 2017 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

                You may well be right there Rellum.

                But my gut tells me Maxwell’s bowling did help him get picked in India and was seen as insurance in case of injury or other tactical reasons, especially given that he’d taken 7 wickets at 28 in his two Tests in India back in 2013.

                I just can’t imagine him being picked only as a specialist batsman, without his bowling being factored in at all, considering how poorly he’d batted in his 3 Tests in Asia to that point (avg. of 13 from six innings). Of course, that’s just my instinct, I don’t have any insider info.

              • Roar Guru

                October 2nd 2017 @ 10:04pm
                Rellum said | October 2nd 2017 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

                I am sure his bowling is considered, so would his fielding(not that it has been super great of late). His fielding would play a very big part in his selections given he is one of the few world class fielders getting around at the moment. That can make a difference in close games.

              • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:05pm
                Ben said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:05pm | ! Report

                His catch of kohli wasn’t great?

              • October 3rd 2017 @ 1:02am
                Don Freo said | October 3rd 2017 @ 1:02am | ! Report

                Rellum, I noticed you mentioned the quality of Qld’s fielding having improved under Seccombe. There is some great fielding around at state level at the moment. Alex Ross in SA is fantastic.

                WA, of course, have NCN who is one of the world’s best and Agar but Jhye Richardson gets selector’s nods ahead of bowlers like Simon Mackin in ODI and T20 because of his amazing fielding. I doubt that I have ever seen a faster boundary rider and his throwing is amazing. Joel Paris is another wonderful fieldsman to look forward to when he finally gets on the grass. Cartwright, too, is outstanding fieldsman.

                Maxi is still the standard setter.

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