Allrounder Marcus Stoinis, whose key wickets with the ball and in the field delivered Australia their first ODI win in more than nine months, admitted to being physically and mentally exhausted in the immediate aftermath of a hard-won seven-run victory over South Africa.
While skipper Aaron Finch conceded pre-game the scrutiny brought to bear on Australian cricket during recent months was taking a toll, Stoinis revealed that he and his fellow bowlers were “cooked” after defending their team’s modest 231 on a pitch where only one batter reached 50.
The 29-year-old also spoke of the pride and character that has carried the team through the tough days that followed the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa earlier this year, and the upheaval at all levels of Australian cricket that came in its wake.
“I’m bloody tired,” Stoinis said in the wake of the win which was the reigning world champions’ first ODI victory since they defeated England, also at Adelaide Oval, on Australia Day last January.
“We’re all bloody tired.
“All the bowlers are cooked.
“It was a big effort, so really proud of everyone.
“At the end of the day, all the guys that are in that team fight so hard, want to be there so much, train so hard, think about cricket all day every day.
“I know obviously we haven’t got the results that maybe the media and the Australian public would want.
“But these guys, we all fight, we all really want to be there, we all really want to win, and so the character of the individuals speaks for itself.”
Despite the dominance of rival front-line seamers Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in conditions where ball dominated bat throughout a low-scoring contest, it was Stoinis’s breakthroughs that ultimately proved crucial.
Among his 3-35 – which followed the 3-16 he grabbed in Australia’s eighth consecutive ODI loss at Perth last Sunday – was the wicket of Proteas power hitter David Miller, who loomed large as the man likely to carry South Africa to their victory target.
Miller’s 51 was the sole half-century of the match, and when he was the eighth wicket to fall in the 44th over with a further 45 runs required for victory, Australia were on course for a breakthrough win.
“I was just being patient towards the back end knowing that (leg spinner Adam) Zampa was still coming, and Stoinis, and he ended up getting me out,” Miller said tonight, having fallen lbw to Stoinis with the decision given after Australia’s successful DRS referral.
“I was just waiting for the right time at the back end to see off Starc and Hazlewood, and the main bowlers.”
However, it was Stoinis’ run-out of South Africa’s number-three Aiden Markram that provided a much-needed spark for a team bereft of confidence and kudos, having endured the longest ODI losing streak in the national men’s team trophy-laden history.
Markram had served notice of his intention by lifting Starc beyond the mid-wicket fence, but soon after he was caught seemingly unawares by his batting partner Reeza Hendricks’ call for a third run after the opener had clipped Cummins to deep square leg.
Stoinis executed a sliding save and rocketed a return alongside the base of the stumps where Australia keeper Alex Carey neatly gathered the ball and broke the wicket as Markram threw himself despairingly at the crease line, with his bat flailing above the turf as he dived.
“(It was) probably a good way to start the innings for us because we felt like we had enough on the board but we weren’t really happy with how we batted,” Stoinis said.
“So it was good that we got an early wicket, got a run-out, go the momentum in our favour.
“That’s what we’ve been working at.
“We work every day trying to hone our skills, and I personally think because there’s so much noise going on (the) cricket game moves so fast, and you can’t possibly concentrate as well as you’d like to with all the noise.
“So that’s part of the art of playing international cricket is we’ve got to start really internalising all that sort of stuff and focusing on what’s really important for us.”
While the physical slog and the mental pressure of scrambling across the line for their first ODI win since last summer has sapped the Australian bowlers, both teams face a tight turnaround for the three-match Gillette Series decider in Hobart on Sunday.
They will fly from Adelaide on Saturday afternoon and recuperate for the play-off, which begins at Blundstone Arena at 1.50pm the next day.
Australia v Proteas, Gillette ODI series, November 2018
First ODI: South Africa won by six wickets
Second ODI: Australia won by seven runs
Third ODI: Blundstone Arena, Hobart, November 11
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn.