Marcus Stoinis started the day as the willing stooge in an online video that went viral. He ended the night laughing the loudest after guiding Delhi Capitals through to the IPL final following a 17-run win.
If Delhi were on edge going in to the last-chance qualifier against Sunrisers Hyderabad, given the high stakes and their alarming form, their social media team did their best to imply otherwise.
On the afternoon of the game, they tweeted a video of Shreyas Iyer, their captain, mimicking Stoinis’ walk, prompting much hilarity among his teammates. To give him his due, no-one was laughing more than Stoinis.
Laughter, it appeared, was the best medicine. They lined up against Hyderabad with one win in six, and confidence low. Their opposition, by contrast, had only lost once in their previous six.
And yet, give or take a brilliant cameo from Kane Williamson, Delhi were largely in control of this tie, from the moment they surprisingly sent out Stoinis to open the batting for the first time this tournament.
First, he supercharged their batting effort, putting on a rapid 86 for the first wicket with Dhawan.
Once Delhi had signed for an imposing 189-3, Stoinis took two wickets in his first over with the ball, and later returned to extinguish Hyderabad’s hopes with the wicket of Williamson.
He was given a helping hand. Jason Holder, who had done so much to fuel Hyderabad’s charge to this point, had his most chastening evening since arriving at the competition as late injury cover.
After Delhi had made a sedate start, Stoinis drilled a tough chance to the Barbadian, positioned close in on the leg side off Sandeep Sharma.
The ball bounced out of the West Indies Test captain’s hand. Stoinis was on three at the time. He hit the next 10 balls he faced for a combined total of 27 – 18 of which came off Holder himself.
It gave Delhi the impetus they required after their recent struggles. By the end of the powerplay, though, Stoinis and Dhawan had taken them to 65 for no wicket, and everyone in blue was smiling.
Ricky Ponting and Mohammed Kaif, their coaches, strolled on to the field at the timeout grinning. And at one point, Kagiso Rabada was gurning to amuse his teammates.
As the pressure dissipated from them, it started to show on Hyderabad.
Rashid Khan, their champion spinner who took three for seven the last time these sides met, but he was frustrated as soon as he got to bowl.
That manifested in four overthrows off the fourth ball he sent down – which added up to six – as he wildly attempted a run out.
He had some respite shortly after, when he bowled Stoinis for 38 from 27 balls, but was still vividly agitated, giving the Australian an angry send off.
Delhi’s progress was only vaguely checked by Stoinis’ departure, and when Shimron Hetmyer arrived with five overs to go, they were able to have a second push.
The Guyanese left-hander, restored to the line up, enjoyed his best night of the season so far, making 42 not out off 22 balls at the end of the innings.
His only misstep was failing to get Dhawan’s attention when the left-hander walked off after being adjudged lbw for 78. Ball-tracking showed the ball had struck him outside the line of off-stump, and Delhi still had their review left.
In reply, Williamson briefly threatened to drag his side into a position to push for victory. But once he went, caught by Rabada off Stoinis for a thrilling 67 from 45 deliveries, Hyderabad’s chances were gone. They managed 172-8.
Delhi will now face Mumbai Indians in Tuesday’s final. It will be a daunting prospect, given it is their first final, Mumbai are serial champions, the holders, they finished top of the league phase, and they thrashed Delhi in the first qualifier.
That said, though, Hyderabad had dominated Delhi twice in the league, too, and look how that has worked out.